Top Web Design Trends from 2014

Posted on: January 5th, 2015 by Maggie No Comments


2014 Web Design Trends

Happy 2015!

Here is a great list we came across posted by 99designs for the Top 10 Web Design Trends of 2014. Enjoy!

See the List



Tetra Spotlight on Leslie Laurien, Medical Illustrator

Posted on: December 5th, 2014 by Maggie


At Tetra we work directly with one of the best medical illustrators in the Bay Area, Leslie Laurien. In this post we are shining the Tetra Spotlight on her as she answers a few questions about her personal experiences in the field of medical illustration. You can see her work here:

How did you get into the field of medical illustration?

My mother actually sent me an article on a medical illustrator while I was in college studying to be pre-med. She wrote across the top “this would be perfect for you”, and since I was getting the picture on how little sleep I’d be getting as a doctor, I thought she was right. That set me on the path of going on to graduate school at the Medical College of Georgia. As a child I was always big on drawing and anything to do with biology-related interests so being a medical illustrator has really pulled those areas together for me.

What types of projects do you typically work on?

Early in my freelance career I did about everything from sculpting models, teaching programs, print illustration, courtroom illustration- you name it. In the last decade or more my work has become much more focused on medical devices. I still do some pharmaceutical (cellular and physiology based images) but devices in the anatomy for advertising and physician and patient education are the bulk of my work.

What is your favorite part about this line of work?

There are several aspects I really enjoy. My favorite part might be dealing with the challenges each job presents. It’s great to work closely with product managers, engineers, designers, or physicians to develop drawings that really target and express the information they’re after. I like that I never know what may come in next and I’m continually learning through my work; improving my illustration skills, seeing the cutting edge of medical technologies, and dealing with new people. It’s really engaging.

Tell us a little bit about your process. How do you get started and how does a project progress?

Typically a job starts with an email containing reference material and a general outline of the project a client has in mind. Next, if needed, we’ll schedule a phone conference to discuss further details that help me put together an estimate on cost. Once underway,  I take a series of photographs of any devices or equipment I’m provided to ensure that proportion and positioning are as accurate as possible. Sketches or sample files are sent to confirm content and the overall appearance of the images as the job develops. Typically a project will require one or two rounds of adjustments to the illustrations during this process before the job is complete.

Any words of advice for aspiring illustrators who want to enter into the medical illustration field?

I think my first suggestion would be to get a solid education by attending one of the graduate schools offering a degree in medical illustration. There aren’t many of them, but these schools really put their students at an advantage when it comes to training and anatomical knowledge. This requires strong grades in undergraduate science courses and an even stronger portfolio, so prepare well.  After that, my advice would probably apply to almost anyone going into a career: do something you love, operate with integrity, do your best job to meet the client’s needs, be responsive, professional, and meet your deadlines.

Thanks so much for sharing Leslie! (


TetraTip: 5 Best Free Design Resources

Posted on: October 24th, 2014 by Maggie No Comments



Check out our list of what we believe to be the 5 best free design resources right now.  Happy bookmarking!

  1. Graphic Burger ( Design resource for both personal and commercial use. There is a boat load of free stuff here!
  2. Font Squirrel ( This is a great spot to find free fonts that are high quality and free for commercial use.
  3. Flat Icon ( We love this source for vector icons. They almost always have what you are looking for and the .svg files open right up in illustrator for easy editing!
  4. Aquent Gymnasium ( Who doesn't want free quality tutorials? This is the spot.
  5. Tiny Designr ( This is a great source for many items but we love the 135 amazing free PSD mock-ups!

Champagne Taste on a Beer Budget

Posted on: April 30th, 2014 by Lina No Comments


As with anything of value, great creative and quality design takes both time and money to achieve. Investing money into your brand and design is not cheap, but it also shouldn’t break the bank. So, how do you balance quality design work with your marketing dollars? Budgets and Marketing Objectives.

Allocate a portion of your project budget to the creative work and share that information with the designer. It doesn’t need to be an exact number, a ballpark figure range works wonderfully. Knowing how much money you realistically have to invest into bringing your brand to life is very important. It gives you a perspective on the funds you have to work with. It also allows the creative team to strategize on the best way to approach the design work. Believe me, when presented with an estimate, it is frustrating to the client and designer if the project cost is too expensive (aka outside of the budget). Knowing budgets upfront sets cost expectations for a more efficient and stress-free experience.

So how much money do you set aside? The adage of it “varies by industry and size” does hold true. The US Small Business Association recommends small businesses with less than $5 million in revenue allocate 7-8%  for marketing. Out of that the money should be split between brand development (website, blogs, sales collateral) and cost of promoting the business (campaigns, advertising, events, etc.).

When setting up the budget, it is important to think about the kind of design work required. A website is going to cost more money than a brochure, so plan accordingly. Review your campaign objective from the creative brief to determine your needs in finding the right design partner for your project. Also, allocate reasonable funds for the project. Reasonable meaning an appropriate cost for services rendered specific to your industry and target audience.

The quality and design style desired is going to impact cost. Review successful companies and their look and feel. Look at your successful competitors for visual clues of how design is positively influencing their brand. Is the design clean? Does it catch your eye? Make you go, “Wow” or “Cool”? Does it make you aspire to be like them? Good, quality, tasteful design takes time, experience, talent and money to develop.

When it comes to design, do you have champagne taste on a beer budget? My analogy for this is simple. If you’re throwing a celebration party for 20 people and really want to serve Dom Pérignon, but only have $75 to spend on it, then there might be a small (big) problem. Instead of champagne, beer will clearly have to do. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, it’s just a matter of realigning expectations. If you really want and need the champagne, then you’ll allocate more funds to get it. If not, then you’ll take the beer, make the best of it and move on.

The same holds true for design work, with one exception. If your budget is “reasonable for the kind of project required”, there are talented designers who can work within your budget. But as with anything, the old adage can unfortunately be true, “you get what you pay for”. Protect yourself by researching the designer's work getting referrals and setting up a creative brief to avoid unpleasant surprises. For expectations of what a designer's responsibility is to a client, view the AIGA standards of professional practice.

What Type of Process Do We Follow?

Posted on: March 5th, 2014 by Maggie No Comments


When we meet a new client we are often asked what they can expect while working with us. What type of process do we follow? What is the first step? The last step? And everything in between? We've created an infographic to show our process workflow.



How to Give Constructive Feedback to Your Designer

Posted on: February 28th, 2014 by Nancy No Comments


Milton Glaser, the elder statesman of graphic design, once instructed a group of designers:

"There are three responses to a design presentation - yes, no and WOW! Wow is the one to aim for".

As desirable as "WOW" and even "Yes" are, occasionally "No" is the inevitable response to a presentation that lands with a thud. Creative briefs, no matter how well written or thought out, don't always prevent honest misunderstandings on the part of your creative team.

As uncomfortable as this situation may be, especially if a tight deadline is looming, there are ways to get things back on track.


The first step is, don't panic! Your designers are just as anxious to fix the problem and will be open to (and appreciate) your constructive feedback.

The second thing is to not lay blame or point fingers. Everyone invested in the project needs to focus on a solution quickly, so it's time to pull together.

Subjective observations such as "I don't like the font" or "I don't like that color" are not as useful as "the font doesn't really work with the message we're trying to convey" or " that color will not resonate with our target audience".

The best way to keep the feedback relevant and on point is by going back to the creative brief.


The creative brief allows all parties to revisit the criteria spelled out for the project and to identify where the problems occur.

For example:

• Take another look at the project objective. If the creative does not meet this objective then a discussion identifying any confusion over this is the first step.

• Review the key message. Is it clear, concise and to the point? Any ambiguity can lead to incorrect assumptions which may also throw the creative off.

• Is the creative appropriate to your target audience? If not, go back and review the criteria outlined in the creative brief to make sure that it's clearly understood.


Using the creative brief as a way to give constructive feedback will give your designers the tools they need to get the project moving in the right direction so they can turn the creative presentation from a "No" to a "WOW".

“Just Make It Look Pretty”

Posted on: February 15th, 2014 by Lina No Comments


"Just make it look pretty". I can’t begin to count how many times I’ve heard these words. Fighting the urge to run for the hills, I take a deep breath and begin the process of filtering out what is meant by “pretty.“

Usually this statement boils down to a few key points, make it functional, easy to read, pleasing to look at and elicit a response from the viewer (aka “actionable”).

These key points are great, but just part of the puzzle. It doesn’t answer the who, what, when, where, why and how questions—all necessary and relevant to designing creative content. How are these questions best answered? Typically via a Creative Brief, ideally put together by the Client (sometimes the Designer) or in the best case scenario by both parties. This process gives everyone a chance to add relevant information to create an easy reference tool for use during the project cycle.

A creative brief is important for both Designer and Client. It will have background information about the project, such as why the product/service was created. It will also include any branding or creative information about the product/service, such as taglines, logos or boilerplates and list any key stakeholders or decision makers in the project. Most importantly, it will have answers to questions such as who is the target audience? What are the benefits and features of the product or service? When is the project due? Where is the product/service available? Why is this product/service desirable? Lastly, it will also state what is the “actionable" goal or objective of the project. How does the viewer interact with the final creative? Ideally this would be a short sentence of the kind of response the creative should elicit the viewer to do, feel or think.

In short, the Creative Brief serves as a road map for the creative direction of the project. It can also be used to measure the effectiveness of the final creative work. Does it meet the objective? Does it convey the intended message? Is it on brand? Does it speak to the target audience?

Sometimes it can be tempting to “Just make it look pretty”, but you’re only doing everyone a disservice by overlooking this handy tool that all parties can reference and use to measure goals. Taking a couple of hours at the beginning to set up a creative brief will save everyone time, money, heartache and disappointment. It builds a common bond that helps everyone work together in a timely and more efficient manner. “Actionable” responses from creative work translates to more money for the Client and more work and referrals for the Designer. Now that is a more effective and compelling outcome than “just make it look pretty.”

In need of a Sample Creative Brief?

Download our complimentary Creative Brief file:

Phoenix Logo Design for Pivot Medical

Posted on: February 4th, 2014 by Maggie No Comments


Sometimes, our clients have a pretty clear vision of the kind of logo they would like to have. The concept can be driven by business decisions, personal taste or something as simple as the product name. When Pivot Medical came to us for a logo design, they had an idea that it should resemble a Phoenix bird to match the name of their new device, the Phoenix Healing Response System — a device comprised of the necessary tools to easily access hip chondral lesions without obstruction.

With a product launch weeks away and supporting materials (data sheets and technique guides) to also design, time was critical. We were able to quickly bring their idea to life by incorporating the symbol of the mythical Phoenix bird in place of the "o" in the word Phoenix. This gave the letter focused logotype more personality. We presented several design options using this approach and a mix of stock and custom illustrations. All logo designs exceeded the clients' expectations. The chosen logo features the Phoenix with soaring wings to represent renewal superimposed over a solid filled "o" to represent fire. The color usage is a burnt red hue to also evoke fire and complement other colors in the Pivot Medical brand family. All deliverables were completed in time for product launch.

Phoenix logo from Tetra Design Group on Vimeo.


In 2011 Tetra Design Group was commissioned by SinuSys Corporation, a medical device company, to help launch its first product, the AerOs (now Vent-Os) Sinus Dilation System. Tetra evolved the SinuSys brand by creating a visual element that demonstrates how the product works.

The visual element has been successfully used across multiple platforms such as a responsive website, brochure, booth graphics, data sheets, online advertisements and materials for clinical trials.

In September of 2013, SinuSys was notified of pending FDA 510(k) approval of the Vent-Os Dilation System. Once again, Tetra was hired to update all existing collateral pieces, website and develop new materials in anticipation of FDA approval:

• An email blast which links to a landing page where a user can sign up for more info about the newly available Vent-Os device

• A direct mail postcard to announce the Vent-Os device is now available

• A tabletop booth graphic for each sales rep

• A clinical data summary outlining the product's benefits over it competitors

• A skyscraper banner ad featured in the AAO-HNS online newsletter geared toward ENT (Ear, Nose and Throat) physicians.

All updates and design of new materials were completed in late 2013. Upon FDA approval, Tetra was able to release the various components in the campaign to maximize the impact of the announcement. Having several months to work on all updates and new materials was crucial in having a successful launch. Everything was ready to go, making the execution seamless.

"Tetra Design Group helped us develop a great launch campaign for our new Vent-Os™ Sinus Dilation System. Their creative concept is resonating well with our target audience, and their work — covering branding, promotional/sales collateral and web marketing — was executed in a timely and cost-effective manner. I highly recommend them!"

Kevin Tausend, VP Sales & Marketing, SinuSys Corporation

To Work For Trade Or Not?

Posted on: January 9th, 2014 by Lina No Comments


Sometimes in our line of work, designers get a request to do work for trade. This basically means an exchange of creative design services for someone else’s creative services or “other”. Other can take on the form of company stock, recognition/promotion of some sort, word of mouth referrals or another item of value to the Designer.

When these opportunities arise, it is important to approach them with an open mind while also treading cautiously.

First ask yourself the following questions:

  1. Do I want or need this other person’s service?
  2. Is my perceived value of what I am getting worth the time I will put into what I am giving the other party?
  3. If it all goes south, how will this impact my relationship with this person/business?

If you realize that this can be a win-win situation for both parties, then a few pointers on making the exchange go smoothly.

  1. Set up a written agreement with clear parameters on the scope of work you will be doing, including the amount of rounds and final delivery of design/service. If anything changes along the way, then modify the scope of work to keep everything accurate and fair.
  2. Assign a dollar value to your service and ensure you will be getting an equal value in return. For example if you will be doing $3K worth of work, then ensure you will receive $3K of services in exchange.
  3. Include a trade schedule of when you expect services to be completed for both parties. The last thing you want to do is have to wait 6 months for something you need within 3 months.

On the other hand, if you realize a trade for work is not in the cards, then how do you exit gracefully without burning any bridges?

A few pieces of advice:

  1. Respectfully decline
  2. If what you really need is cash flow and would still like to do work for the person, present them with an estimate of what the desired work entails. If they really need the service and want to work with you, they might be able to make some room in their budget for your services.
  3. Reach out to your network of designer friends. Someone might be interested in the other person’s services and willing to do the work for trade.

At the end of the day, the most successful and gratifying work for trade experiences will be where both parties feel that they received a fair exchange whether it be monetary or of a perceived value for the recipient.