KMK Team

Our full-service advertising and communications firm employs an extremely talented and passionate team of industry experts.

Budding Designers


A few months ago, I was asked to judge a design competition for local high school students studying graphic design. I saw this as a great opportunity to see the talents of young future designers and offer professional guidance.

Twenty-nine eager students from several area high schools were given a choice from five actual “business clients” seeking either a business card, social media post, or an app design. The students had two months to design a final product that accurately represented their chosen client. With the help of the judges and their teachers, the students were guided through the design process to gain real-world knowledge of a career as a graphic designer.

The first stage of the competition taught the students to hand sketch their design concept. All too often we, as designers, get caught up in a “I need it now” world and begin the concepting stage at the computer. However, I was instructed early in my career that there are no limitations in creativity from the hands. Whereas when using a computer, my limit is restricted by fonts, flow, and freedom (the 3 Fs).

After the students received constructive criticism from the judges, they took that advice with them to the next stage: digital. They “tightened up” their designs and translated them into a digital design more appealing to the eye.

After the judges reviewed the digital design, the next step was execution. During this stage the students made final adjustments and submitted their final design for evaluation. The judges chose the top 10 designs based on creativity and following guidance and direction.  Students received awards in 4 categories: Typography, Vision, Illustration, Progress and Design.

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Does This Match?


My wife, a high school educator, was picking out her outfit for the next day’s work. She brought me the outfit she was putting together and asked me, “Does this match?” Instead of the traditional husband answer of “yes” (always the safest one), my answer was a typical answer of a graphic designer. I provided a detailed explanation that utilized my background in design to describe my reasoning of why the colors of her outfit don’t match. Amazingly enough, after my thorough explanation of color theory, she thanked me. She still asks me occasionally for advice on her outfits but not as much. I think she is either afraid of a long-winded response or figuring it out on her own.

Whether it be with patterns or colors, everybody utilizes matching skills in everyday life. So, is there a right way to match or is it by personal choice? My answer is a simple “YES”. It is both a personal choice and a correct way combined. For example: when designing for a client, one of the many questions to ask is a color preference. They may not prefer certain colors because it is used by a competitor or just a color they never liked. It is the task of a graphic designer to make the client’s choices of colors work whether they are compatible or not.

One choice of compatibility might be warm colors (reds, yellows, oranges, etc.) together or cool colors (greens, blues, purples, etc.), mostly because they share a common mix of colors. The use of a color wheel can be very helpful in the process. It will show those compatibilities using primary and secondary colors. Once you have your colors figured out, try using variations of them. Instead of green use a lime green, instead of red try a burgundy for a richer look.

Once the color choices have been made, your next variable relies on your audience. What is your client’s focus group? Is it moms, young children, teens, or elderly? If you decide on red, yellow, or orange, the primary bright versions may work for the young crowd but for parents or a slightly older audience, richer colors are ideal. Such as a deeper red like a burgundy, or a deeper version of yellow like ochre or a brighter rust for orange. For the elderly, perhaps choose a toned down or muted version of those colors to create a peaceful aesthetic.

So does it match? Ask the client and if they are unsure, make subtle suggestions and comparisons. Some may think they know; some may need a little push in the right direction and others may claim defeat and ask the expert (you) for advice.

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430 Hits

Find Me!


Doesn’t it pique your curiosity? Where is it going to take you? We know them as QR codes or Quick Response Codes, those funny patterned squares used to lead the viewer to a website, social media page or even a menu at a restaurant. It’s free, convenient, and easy, mostly because the majority of the world’s population has the ability to use them with their cell phones.

When they were first introduced an app on your phone needed to be downloaded. Eventually, as they became more popular the app became obsolete and the camera on your phone could capture them and take you to the online destination.

So, how does a QR code work?

The large corner squares tell your device it’s a QR Code and all the little squares (or dots if you prefer) are 3-digit binary codes of each part of the URL you want to link to. For example one small portion will read as Code 000, another 001 then 010 and so on.

Anyone can create one by logging on to sites like: and placing the URL of your choice in the space needed. The URL can be from anything found on the internet: favorite video clip on social media, your Etsy craft shop,  a favorite restaurant, website, email, even your phone number! But wait there’s more!

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Top Tips for a Good Interview


The office doorbell rang, and I answered the door. It was a young college student (aren’t they all young?) applying for a summer website internship position. He introduced himself in a calm matter and I offered him a seat while I informed my boss of his arrival. I admired him for his calmness and for the many meetings he will have in the future. Being interviewed can be scary and if you are unaware of what to do or not to do…read on.

Our company hired this great applicant but some of the others who didn’t make the cut made the mistake of making these DON’T statements:

I don’t handle stress well.I don’t really want to do web development; I want to develop apps.I don’t know what I want to do after graduation.I don’t multi-task well and I procrastinate.

These applicants forgot the simple fact that an internship is still an investment of time for the employer, not just the employee and you work for them, not them for you. An employer wants someone who will do what it takes to get the job done with a smile.

As scary as an interview maybe it is also an opportunity to see if it may be suitable for you. Are the employer and employees a right fit for you or your personality? Is the position what you were expecting? Will it give you a chance to grow? My first interview out of college gave me insight when it began like this:

 “Okay,” the interviewer began. He turned off the lights and turned on a spotlight above me. “Don’t feel nervous,” he said with a bit of seriousness, “We are just going to ask you a few questions.” Then he chuckled a little, turned on the lights and said, “Just kidding. We are trying to lighten the mood a little. You’re fine.” Talk about terrifying.

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Love My Job? Yep! Here’s Why…


The great philosopher Confucius once said, “Choose a job you love, and you will never have to work a day in your life.” Great words to live by and used as a goal to reach by many.

Do you enjoy what you do every day? Is what you do for a living a career or a job? What’s the difference? Here’s the dictionary’s definition:

Job: a piece of work, especially a specific task done as part of the routine of one's occupation or for an agreed price.

Career: success in a profession, occupation, etc. often requiring special training, followed as one's lifework.

My mother always told me, “Choose an occupation you will enjoy, not just for the money.” Of course when you are young, it’s always the money first and happiness will follow. (Right?) It took me years to discover the great wisdom of my mother’s words.

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They Want it When?


Sometimes a client requests a printed marketing piece in a “less than average” time frame. Sometimes we can do it and sometimes we can’t. What factors help us make that determination?

Due date: When do you need it in your hands? That triggers a process used by most creative firms to allow each individual on the “production tree” ample time to produce a satisfying end product. In the agency business, this is what’s involved:

Printer (Rush: 3-4 days at a minimum, dependent upon size and quantity):  Select your printer. Ask them how much time they need from time of receipt of the file to final printing and delivery. Confirm the proper dimensions, paper available and any additional needs (folding, perforation, etc.). For rush jobs, they may have to readjust their schedule by pushing other work back to accommodate your timeline and that could result in extra fees.

Copywriting/Editing (Rush: 1-4 days):  The writer needs information from the client for content or direction on how it should be written or what needs to be included. After the content is written, it’s submitted to the client for review and reworked, as needed. Upon approval, the designer receives the copy to flow into the layout. 

Design (Rush: 3-5 days at a minimum):  Is the necessary information ready and provided to the designer: approved copy, photography to be used, desired dimensions and logo or branding information. If in a rush, a designer who has the dimensions and general information can create a basic layout with “dummy” text and photos as fillers for when the real stuff comes in. Designing “on the fly” is challenging and not usually a good idea as the amount of creativity and number of revisions allowed may be sacrificed in the rush to complete the job within the timeframe desired.

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Seeing It in a Whole New Light

I sat there looking at the illustration I had been working on for some time… upside down. My wife didn’t question me as many of my family members have learned not to. It was a “Dad or Gary thing” or maybe just what artists do. As the saying goes, “The left-handed are in their right minds.” Meaning of course, we use the creative side of our brains (the right side) more often than that of the typical right-handed person.

Why was I looking at my illustration upside down? One family member did dare to ask me once, fearing some eccentric answer. But it was anything but that, at least I think so. I had spent some time working on this piece and still couldn’t figure out what was wrong with it. I had been looking at it for so long I became comfortable with what I was doing. Much like writing. You write it and proof it and proof it again. You can’t find any errors but give it to someone else and they find things that you overlooked because they are a fresh set of eyes seeing it for the first time.

What does the artist do to resolve his problem? First, he turns it upside down. By looking at it in a different way he is seeing it like another person seeing it for the first time. It now becomes a different piece of work and errors are easier to find. Another way to see it differently is to hold it up in a mirror. Looking at the reverse image of what you’ve been staring at for so long, “magnifies” any possible adjustments needed.

So, if you walk into a room of an artist looking at his work upside down, he’s not crazy. He’s just trying to improve his work and if he is sitting and staring at someone else’s work (like I often do) he’s just admiring the talent.

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521 Hits

A New Year in the Life of a KMK Media Graphic Designer


It was October 26, 2020. I began my new position with KMK Media Group as their Graphic Designer. I felt blessed. After losing my position with a game and toy company I had been with for 20 years and a long search due to COVID, I had landed.

I was given the option to work at home…remotely like so many businesses were doing. I was given a nice office with windows (no 8’ x 8’ cubicle in the middle of a building) so why would I want to work at home? We kept our doors partly closed and wore our masks when meeting with each other. The most difficult part of my transition was my manager being gone for my first 2 weeks due to COVID. Systems and routines were explained, tasks via email. I prevailed or so I believe I did.

It wasn’t just a learning curve for me. Everyone needed to get to know me. How easy am I to talk to and how well do I take constructive criticism? My manager would often start out with, “Don’t take this the wrong way…” I told her, “I’m not perfect and I expect corrections and input. Without it how can we grow as an employee and a person?” Now, a year later, the collaboration and feedback flows freely toward successful solutions for our clients.

One of my first job duties was to create the website design for a large, regional government organization. During my job interview, I’d been asked for ideas. After being hired, one of those ideas was presented and selected by the client for implementation. The new site launched earlier this year, much to my excitement and the happiness of our client.

I also worked on projects for a school, menus for a restaurant, charitable foundation website, logo designs and billboards, to name a few. There was never one set thing to do and always a variety. My only downfall was occasionally being too eager and starting a project before I had the final go-ahead. My boss thinks there could be far worse weaknesses.

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Be a Graphic Designer in 4 Short Weeks…NOT! (i.e. the value of a true graphic designer)


“Learn Graphic Design in 4 Short Weeks!” …has anyone else seen this Facebook ad?

I have now seen it several times. As a professional graphic designer with formal training and more than 30 years of experience, the fact that the ad was targeted to me did, perhaps, color my perception of it right from the start.

The comments from other Facebook viewers were not what I expected. They questioned what programs are required and whether it was really 4 weeks of free training. The best response by the company that posted the ad was, “Actually it is an eight-week course, and the first 4 weeks are free.” Really? Bait and switch at play and yet people were still interested in the offering.

You cannot learn graphic design in 4 weeks or 8 weeks…at least not enough to become proficient and knowledgeable enough to do it for a career.

Over the years, I have fixed the “design” files of many people who claimed to be graphic designers, having taken a short course or purchased a self-taught program or two. The fact is: anybody can use the software but not everyone has the skills required to do it well without proper instruction. Sure, you can open a blank document in InDesign with guidelines set for your text and your photos. Place the photos, maybe make a few bigger than others, but is that design?

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“I See Your True Colors”…or Do I?


“What difference does it make what color I use? I’m just going to use what I think looks good,” said many a graphic design intern I have mentored over the years.

There is a logical reason for every color choice, but first, start with black and white.

Begin your design process in simple black and white (and greys), because color plays a very important role in how we view everything we look at. In the design world, whether it is a brochure, a sign, a game box or an ever-important logo, color affects perception and preference.

I once created several variations of a logo using different colors. Upon presenting in front of a committee for feedback, I was overwhelmed with a variety of opinions. Adding color to them distracted the viewers from the actual look of the logo, and many were analyzing them with color in mind. Upon recreating them in black and white, a mutual agreement was easier to be reached based on the design alone. If you start your design process with color first before basic design, you limit creativity based on color first, NOT the design.

The next important rule of design with color? Consider your target audience. In my many years of designing packaging, products, promotional material and logos for a game and toy company, I discovered the need to start with the age demographic. It will jumpstart the design process and incorporating color.

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I Can See Three Dinosaurs


Ever see those jumbled up paintings?

You know the kind where there are always at least three people standing around staring at it with one saying, “I don’t see anything. You’re both nuts.”

And another responding, “What do you mean you don’t see it? They’re right there! Three dinosaurs! Just stare at it for a while, you’ll see it.”

And the third person loses countless hours staring…and staring…and staring…

Well, that is art. I was once asked in art school, “What is art?” Some students had answers, others looked either scared to respond or hoped they wouldn’t be called on. The professor answered, “Art is what you want it to be. It is what the eye perceives. I can hold up this pencil and call it art because I say it is.”

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First KMK Staffer Gets "The Shot"


It was believed to start in China. A strange virus able to spread quickly to the immune system of any one of us. It has no favorites and seems to most seriously affect the elderly and those with low immune systems. It soon spread throughout our country. Many thought they were invincible and refused wearing masks or taking precautions. They were bitter and angry when restaurants closed down and stores denied them entrance without masks.

Jobs were furloughed and employers encouraged people to look for other employment. Some began to lose their jobs, once thinking they were crucial to the company’s success. Thousands and thousands flooded LinkedIn, Indeed, and Zip Recruiter looking for employment within a scarce number of available jobs, and many people are still searching for employment.

Schools changed the way they teach. Children taught themselves to learn remotely, parents worked at home, Zoom became a word as popular as Kleenex. The year 2020 changed the way we lived and how to survive. Surviving the loss of a job, the double duty of working at home and spending more time with children, longing to return to the “old normal” of no masks and not hearing the daily COVID death count while hoping for a cure.

In 2020, a vaccine was created. The essentials were first to receive it…doctors, nurses, medics, emergency providers, teachers, etc. We put our names on a list hoping to be next. It is not 100% effective, but in my opinion, if I am 90% safer and protected from getting the disease, then the vaccine is definitely worthwhile. I will be the “human guinea pig” as some vaccine non-believers call me. It’s us human guinea pigs that helped find the cure for Smallpox, Measles, Chicken Pox, Polio and so many others that killed thousands of people in the early 1900s.

So, I became the first of the KMK staff to receive the vaccine. Does this mean I can whip off the mask and act like Superman….indestructible to everything? Everything that is, but Kryptonite, the one thing that could make the invincible superhero weak and vulnerable. The vaccine is my hopeful cure to the “old normal” and the virus is the Kryptonite, needing to be destroyed.

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Who We Are?

KMK Media Group is a full-service communications firm focused on helping businesses succeed through consistent creative, message and tone.

What We Do

Our services include award-winning design, web development, social media management, video production, public relations, ad campaigns and more!

Where to find us?

716 North Church Street
Rockford, Illinois 61103
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