I Have a New and Cheap Way to Spend My Free Time

When I moved to New York, I knew it would be expensive ahead of time. There was no missing that because it’s a topic that people talk about in other states. So, when I applied for school in the city, I kept that in mind. But I attend a well known arts school, and I could not pass up going there. When I moved into my dorm, I was given an info packet about some of the places to go here and some of the services offered. I put it to the side because I was so busy getting to know my school and keeping up with homework. I ran across it last week when it fell off a shelf in my closet.

One of the services mentioned in the packet stated that students can get a really nice discount on satellite TV service. I had called quite a few cable companies when I first moved into the dorm and could not afford their monthly charge. But to learn I could get satellite for almost 25 percent less each month with no contract was really interesting because it meant that I could afford the cost.

I don’t have a full time job because I have no time for it due to school being full time. So, I am very careful with what I spend my money on. As someone who is not into the night life and partying, it can be pretty boring just reading books in my free time at night. I missed watching engaging and educational shows, which you do not find much of on regular network TV. I called the company and explained that I’m a student, and they explained that I only needed to fax them a copy of my student ID to unlock the lower cost. After that, they came over and turned on my service within days.

My Dogs Were Not Getting Enough Fiber

I am one of those people who used to trust the dog food industry. I have always had dogs, and I always fed them the best dog food possible. I realized that while that is better than the cheap bags that cost a fraction of the price for three times the amount of food, that it still wasn’t good enough for my girls. I wanted to find out about doggy nutrition, so I went online to do some research. That is how I found http://www.doggybakery.org/yes-your-dog-needs-fiber-too/, a really incredible website that is easy to read and easy to understand.

It has so many different nutritional tips on it for dogs that it is surprising that more people don’t take their dog’s nutritional needs into their own hands instead of relying on the dog food industry to make sure our pups are being fed quality food that has all of the nutrients that they need to be healthy. (more…)

How Much Analog Have I Lost?

For days I was trying to find out what kind of cable TV service I could order when I moved to my new place but without the Internet at the time, I seriously had so much trouble finding out what providers were available that I felt like I had stepped back in time. This was the first time in years that I didn’t have the Internet or a cell phone which made it even more difficult, unfortunately. I literally had to use a buddies computer to find more information so I could have it all ready to hook up when I moved.

This goes to show just how dependent we have become. (more…)

Crop Marks Design

The creative alternative to an ad agency.

Well, you found it…the solution for all your graphic design, website design, marketing and advertising needs. Introducing Crop Marks Design Studio – an award-winning, progressive design firm located in Concord, NH specializing in delivering unique and creative solutions for businesses of all shapes and sizes.

Fuse-Logo“We see Crop Marks Design Studio as an extension of our in-house marketing department. Stephen is an invaluable team member and completely committed to the success of our company. Crop Marks Design has helped us elevate our brand equity, create a unique look and clearly differentiate ourselves from the competition. Thanks to Crop Marks Design Studio, our shelves are filling-up with awards for advertising and marketing excellence.”

Jessica McLane Gann
Director of Marketing and Communications
American Registry for Diagnostic Medical Sonography (ARDMS)

It’s our guess that you’re looking for a creative partner – someone who understands your need to maximize every dollar of your marketing budget, while still being creative and unique enough to help you stand out from the competition. Just as important, you want to feel comfortable with those who are handling your creative materials – to develop a level of trust and confidence that the job will be done right…on time…and on budget.

Crop Marks Design Studio is the solution – your creative alternative to an advertising agency. If you’re tired of the fluff, runaround or even being burned, give us call and get ready to experience something different – fresh creative ideas paired with personal service and attention that you expect.

“Over the past 10+ years, we have worked with Stephen on hundreds of projects. He is one of those rare finds in that “he actually gets it”. He listens well to understand your goals and he delivers timely outcomes that exceed expectations. At Heritage, we consider Stephen a treasured member of our family.”

Craig Chartier
Heritage Plumbing & Heating, Inc.

Creative Services

A good friend once said, “everything has to be designed…even the letters that make up the words you’re reading now.” It’s true – design, even in it’s simplest form still needs to go through the creative process to become what it is.

“Stephen is great to work with and instinctively seems to know what the client is looking for. I simply gave him a bunch of photographs of my work, carte blanche to do what he does best, and first time around he hit a grand slam. We went with the dynamic design he came up with right out of the gate. What more can I say?”

Toland Sand
Toland Sand Glass Studio

People often underestimate the power of design and the importance of it for an effective marketing or branding campaign. It takes much more than a computer and some special effects to create something that catches eyes, gets read and gets results. It takes a seasoned designer – one who’s learned from other creatives to help shape his or her own design style.

graphic design

website design




desktop publishing

vehicle graphics

tradeshows graphics

Crop Marks Design offers a full suite of creative services and abilities to clients with the goal of helping clients achieve a level of consistency throughout all of their marketing materials – whether in print, online or on wheels. A consistent brand image is a must for recognition and growth for any business – small or large. Whether we work with you on a per project basis or full blown campaign that crosses many mediums, you can be sure that our creative suggestions are in your best interest.



The story of Crop Marks Design – a journey well worth the trip.

Crop Marks Design Studio was born in 1994 as an entrepreneurial effort to slowly build a design firm focusing on graphic and web design in central New Hampshire. Realizing that his first job out of college (designing yellow page ads) wasn’t going to put him on the road he wanted, Stephen bought a $4,000 PC from Dell (Dell told me I was one of their first residential customers!) and came to Concord to register the business, thinking he would freelance his way out.

Naturally a business doesn’t develop overnight so Stephen got into the advertising agency scene for 14 years carrying titles of Senior Graphic Designer to Creative Director of well respected award-winning agencies. During these years, Crop Marks Design was operating in the background (yes, lunch hours, late evenings, weekends, holidays, etc.) slowly developing a growing client base and referral network.

Today, Crop Marks Design has developed into a well respected design firm in the community – with Stephen having left the ad agency world far behind to do things his way. With clients in every type of business, located coast to coast – “his way” is working just as planned.

Stephen is a graduate of Plymouth State College (class of 1991), an active member in the Concord, NH Chamber of Commerce and has been recognized by the NH Internet Awards, Ad Club of NH, American Graphic Design Awards, NH Graphic Arts Association for creative excellence.

Use the navigation on the left side of the monitor to view different portfolios of work. Select from the samples below the main image. Use the small arrows for additional items.

Our company has worked with Stephen for over 6 years now. Not only does he provide the most professional and impeccable work, but is a true pleasure to work with. His timeliness is most impressive. His capability to generate your desired work and materialize it is amazing! We are so happy to have such a true artist on our team and who makes us look so good.

Thank You Stephen!

Cynthia Mc Carn
CFO Express Plumbing/Heating and Rooter Express – Santa Rosa, CA


Everything that an ad agency isn’t…
the benefits of being boutique.

We could brag about lavish studios and multi-person teams of people to cater to you while they pretend to have an actual interest in your business – but we won’t. In fact Crop Marks Design Studio is quite the opposite – hence the whole “creative alternative” thing. We’re a new breed of design firm – small, highly professional with an active interest in the success and growth of your business.

Does size really matter?

“It was a pleasure working with Crop Marks on Jaguar Mining’s latest annual report. Stephen was always receptive to suggestions and reacted quickly to changes. The whole process was smooth and we got a great product on budget and on time. I look forward to working with Crop Marks again in the future.”

Valeria Rezende DioDato
Director of Communication
Jaguar Mining Inc.

Why should it? If you want to pay inflated prices for someone’s extensive overhead and a team of people who don’t get to know your business, that’s fine. However if you’re looking for the same top shelf creative without the runaround, give us a call.

Crop Marks is small in size and that’s just the way we think it should be. Stephen Smith, President and Creative Director drives the business and oversees all creative. Naturally one man can’t do everything (although it’s close). When in need, quality designers are utilized to assist in bringing out the best for the client. This type of business model allows for the most cost-effective, yet creative approach to each and every project.

How can Crop Marks do it all?

Passion – pure and simple. It’s in everything we do for our clients and is very evident – just ask them! As a small business we understand and appreciate every client and treat them as if they were our only one. Oftentimes with larger agencies, you can get the feeling of being burned simply because of lack of attention – or getting the attention you need, a bit too late. That’s not the case here – we’ve been thanked many times for our promptness – even if just responding to an email.

One of our primary goals is developing long-term relationships with our clients. Why? Simply because strong relationships produce strong materials as well as a referral network that can’t be beat. Many of our clients have had a growing relationship with Crop Marks for over ten years – you don’t see that too often. It’s all about the customer service.

So what’s in it for you?

Top shelf creative work that’s affordable, reliable and timely all topped with a level of customer service you shouldn’t receive…you should expect.


Client Roster

Crop Marks Design has been fortunate to work with a very special group of clients. These are just a few of them, both currently active and inactive.

Alexander Technology Group
American Registry for Diagnostic
Medical Sonography® (ARDMS®)
Brazilian Resources, Inc.
Boston Company Turf & Athletic Fields
Bravo Productions, Inc.
Capstone Turf & Garden
Carew & Wells, PLLC
Carolyn Madden, CPA
Checkmate Payroll Services
Child and Family Services of NH
Colwen Hotel Management
Concord Wine Cellar
Concord 20/20
Concord Housing Authority
Concord School District
Cornerstone Community Church
Dalyn Solutions, Inc.
EcoLogic Cartridge Company
Epoxy Technology
Express Plumbing & Heating
Foster Materials
Granite River Studios
Granite State Designers & Installers
Granite State Landscape Architects Association
Groundwork Concord
Harry Lure Company
Heritage Plumbing & Heating, Inc.
Jaguar Mining, Inc.
KBW Financial Staffing & Recruiting
Kramer & Hall Goldsmiths
Laurier Inc.
Leadership Institute
Manor on Golden Pond
Merriam Vineyards
Morgan Winery
MKS Performance Solutions
NH Career Institute
NH Children’s Trust Fund
NH Patient Voices
NH Speech, Language and Hearing Association
Northeast Record Retention
Northpoint Engineering
Polaris Direct
Plymouth State University
Publisher Alley
Quantum Precision Group
River of Grace Church
RP Imports
Say It In Stitches
Servpro of Manchester
Soulful Touch Massage
Specialized Technology Resources
(STR Solar)
SPS Spindle Parts & Service
St. Andrew’s Church
St. Joseph Hospital
Staircrafters Plus
Toland Sand Glass Studio
Valley Fire Equipment
Wildlife Heritage Foundation of NH
Woven Pixels
You’re Fired
Youth Venture


News, events and other stuff

2.24.11 Capital Physical Therapy selects Crop Marks Design for the redesign of their website. Vist the current site.

“Dear Stephen, thank you for being such a fantastic designer, it is very obvious it is your passion.  You have this natural talent.You have helped the image of our company so much, you will never know how much we appreciate you and hope you will be with us for the long haul.  You are efficient, effective and have a get it done approach.  I never feel like we are wasting our time with you or spinning our wheels.”

Lynn Petry
Operations Manager
Dalyn Solutions

“We’re so grateful to you for the great job you did for us and the rapid turnaround time and we look forward to calling upon you again as our needs evolve.”

Best regards, 
Peter Ellinwood
Partner Green Poma, LLC

“From start to finish, you were professional and thorough. I loved that you would call if you had questions regarding my project. Since it was my first experience having a brochure made, I especially appreciated you listening to my input and then either confirming my thoughts or explaining to me why the idea would not work. I absolutely would and have recommended you without hesitation. Your work makes me look good!”

Jodi Roos
Owner, Love Is Blinds

At Capital Physical Therapy, we offer comprehensive care for orthopedic and neurological conditions. Our Mission is to provide quality care to all patients, through a rehabilitation model of excellence and through education. Our Goal is to be the leaders in the field by achieving optimal outcomes for our patients.

6.4.10 The recently designed website for Polaris Direct wins “Best Company Website” by the Mailing and Fullfillment Services Association (MFSA) at their annual conference held in Charleston, SC.

About Polaris Direct
Polaris Direct is a full-service direct marketing services company headquartered in Hooksett, New Hampshire with a sales office in metro New York. The company specializes in high volume direct mailings.

5.14.10 Crop Marks Design Studio has been selected by the Wildlife Heritage Foundation of NH to design and develop their new website. The Wildlife Heritage Foundation of New Hampshire is an official non-profit partner of the N.H. Fish and Game Department. Its purpose is to enhance, through private financial support, the critical conservation and education programs of the Department. Stay tuned!

3.3.10 Crop Marks Design Studio is pleased to announce it has been selected by the Granite State Landscape Architects Association to design and develop their new website. The Granite State Landscape Architects (GSLA) is the NH section of the Boston Chapter of the American Society of Landscape Architects (BSLA). We were established in 1988 as a non-profit professional organization primarily comprised of Landscape Architects, affiliate professionals and students dedicated to the Advancement of Landscape Architecture in New Hampshire.

2.19.10 Crop Marks Design Studio is pleased to announce that it has been selected by the NH Speech, Language and Hearing Association to design their new website. NHSLHA is the professional organization in New Hampshire representing SLPs and audiologists that live and work in NH. Stay tuned for the new site, but to learn more about this organization visit http://www.nhslha.org

1.31.10 Crop Marks Design starts design of website for global leader in solar encapsulants – STR Solar Division.
Crop Marks Design Studio is happy to announce that it is starting the new website design for the solar division of STR (Specialized Technology Resources). Specialized Technology Resources is a worldwide leader in Solar Panel Encapsulation and Quality Assurance Services. Stay tuned.

1.30.10 New website for Polaris Direct is launched! They’re in the top 20 of private NH Businesses as well as on Inc. Magazine’s 500 list.

Please check them out. www.polarisdirect.net

9.15.09 Crop Marks Design Studio is pleased to announce two new clients – SPS Spindle and Quantum Precision Group of Goffstown, NH.

SPS Spindle Parts and Service provides high quality spindle rebuilding services, new spindle products, and innovative technologies to the machine shop industry. Learn more about this innovative machine shop at www.SPSspindle.com

Quantum Precision Group offers complete bearing and industrial supply solutions to its clients. As a full service supplier of bearings and industrial products, Quantum prides themselves as a nationwide market leader in parts supply and distribution. Learn more at www.quantumprecisiongroup.com

8.25.09 Crop Marks Design’s client ARDMS (American Registry for Diagnostic Medical Sonography) receives Honor in Advertising Excellence in recognition of outstanding achievement from the Readex Research Ad Readership study conducted on behalf of SAGE in May 2008. The ad is a part of a growing campaign that is gaining increasing recognition throughout publications.

8.5.09 Crop Marks Design Studio to design new and improved website for NH’s Fastest Growing Privately Held Company – Polaris Direct.

Crop Marks Design is pleased to announce that it is starting the design and development of a new website for Polaris Direct of Hooksett, NH. The new site will better reflect the firm’s capabilities and personality – paired with strong graphics, content and client login – making for a better experience for the visitor.

About Polaris Direct: Polaris Direct specializes in high-volume direct mail processing for Fortune 500 companies and direct marketing agencies. At Polaris Direct, we understand the critical nature of your direct mail campaigns. Return on investment is essential. Response rates are key. The lettershop you select plays an important role in determining the success of these objectives. Select Polaris Direct, and we guarantee that your lettershop experience will be successful.

For more information on Polaris Direct visit their website.

6.09.09 Crop Marks Design co-sponsors event to benefit Concord Boys and Girls Club.

Crop Marks Design was pleased to be one of the sponsors for a recent personal growth and team building seminar called “The Path Ahead” which was hosted by Dalyn Solutions of Concord. Dalyn Solutions, a local full service roofing and gutter company brought nationally known motivational speaker Don Spradling for the event. All proceeds of the event went to benefit the Boys and Girls Clubs of Concord and Hopkinton. For more information on Dalyn Solutions, visit their website: www.roofsNH.com

10.10.08 STR Solar selects Crop Marks Design Studio to develop global marketing portfolio for their solar encapsulant division PhotoCap®.

Crop Marks has been selected to design and develop a series of products and marketing materials for the PhotoCap® Solar Cell Encapsulants product line which will be used throughout the US and Europe.

About STR – Specialized Technology Resources, Inc. (STR), a wholly owned subsidiary of STR Holdings, stabilizing polymers since 1944, has redefined the conventional understanding of photothermal degradation, and used this knowledge to engineer the most stable photovoltaic (PV) adhesive encapsulants in the photovoltaic-solar module business. The STR encapsulant product line named Photocap® is the global industry standard for ethylene vinyl acetate (EVA) and thermoplastic encapsulants and offers the highest adhesion on glass, metal and other module substrates. For more information on STR and Photocap, visit their website: www.strsolar.com

Design Tips

Design tips to help you on those smaller projects…but when in doubt, call a professional!

What application should I use to create my documents if I want to take them to a local print shop?

If you’re not planning on using a professional graphic designer, you’re left to selecting a very limited series of applications to create your project. As most businesses are still windows-based, applications can range from Microsoft Publisher, Word, Corel Draw and to be honest, who knows what else what. If you’re planning on printing your project on your office printer than you shouldn’t have too many problems. However, if you’re going to take your files to a printer or even a place like Kinkos or Staples, you could run into some bumps along the way – especially if you’re giving them the actual file you created. My advice is whenever possible, create a PDF – this will be the easiest to support. Most applications should support printing or exporting to a PDF now.

When you take your Publisher or Word document to the local printer, chances are that you’re not including the fonts used or the graphics – both which will cause problems when they try to work with your file. Creating the PDF for the most part “locks” in your document’s information, so you get what you expect. TIP: Commercial printers and designers HATE Publisher files as they cause numerous problems. If you use it, best bet is to print of your own in-house printers.

Fonts – Keep it Simple

Fonts are one of the greatest elements to graphic design and most important to the layout of your document. When working on a project keep your font use to just a few fonts. With all of the fonts available, it can be easy to use too many – the result is a document that becomes a visual headache. I’d recommend using one font for headlines and subheads, one for the body copy, and one for callouts. If there’s lots of text to read, use a serif font like Palatino, Garamond or Times as they’re easy to read. For headlines and subheads, you could use a sans serif font – something like Helvetica or Futura. These contrast the serif fonts nicely and are easy to read as well.

The other issue with fonts is size – bigger isn’t always better here! Body text on average should be 11 to 12 points depending on the font, with headlines around 18 – 24 points. Keep the sizing in control and your document will be much easier to read.


One of the biggest problem I see with client supplied pictures is that they are often blurry, low resolution and poorly composed. It really doesn’t take much to take a decent picture to use for your website, or company flyer. Most digital cameras now have such good quality it makes it hard to take a bad picture – but it still happens. Make sure your camera is on the FINE setting – this will give you the highest resolution possible.

Try to take pictures of contrasting colors – for example, don’t put your office workers in white shirts against a white wall – they’ll disappear! Think lights and darks and you’ll do fine. To make the most of your important pictures, invest $20 in a simple tripod – this will keep the camera still so you don’t end up with the shakies.

After your photos have been taken, you can simply improve their quality using something like Photoshop Elements – an introductory application to Photoshop which is the industry standard for professional designers and photographers.

The wonderful world of color – not always what you expect

Let’s face it – color is fun! But when it comes to creating projects that you plan on having printed outside your office and if you’re not using a graphic designer, a little knowledge can help prevent unexpected results. There are two basic color formats – RGB which is default on your monitor and used for web design and CMYK (also known as 4-color process) which is used for offset printing. Depending on the final output of your document and who is doing it, working in the proper color format could make or break its appearance. Most non designers will design in RGB (not knowing any difference) and then give their files to a printer who may convert it to CMYK. Depending on the colors used, you could be in for quite a surprise in how different it looks when printed – and possibly NOT for the better. Best advice is to consult with your printer or store to see if they suggest using a color mode.

The other kicker when designing your own documents for print that could produce headaches is the use of SPOT colors rather than process colors. I know this gets a little advanced, but with some of the applications out there, they make it easy to mess up. Spot colors refer to the Pantone Matching System (PMS color) that is used to communicate with commercial printers. Depending on your software you could be designing a newsletter or brochure – specifying beautiful colors – perhaps 20 different versions which are all defined as spot color. To print a 20 spot color job would be a small fortune, so your printer would most likely automatically convert the file to process color. Process color uses 4 colors (cyan, magenta, yellow and black) to create combinations of color. The result is MASSIVE color change! A beautiful spot color blue will quickly become a ho-hum purple.

Talk with your printer – communication is always key to success of any project. If you get really stuck send us an email with a brief question and we’ll do our best to answer it as promptly as possible.

More to come soon!