What is the difference between Em dash and En dash

Get your Ems, Ens, and hyphens in a line

Using special characters in body copy can change a lot of what is being communicated to your audience. Designers and writers also use typographic symbols to communicate in a more skillful and dynamic way. They also elevate your designs to a higher typographic level.

Using the proper dash can sometimes be a question mark for every designer or writer. There are three characters that belong to the dash family; Em and en dash, and the most commonly known, hyphen. Em and en dashes are also typographic units of measurements while hyphens are typically punctuation.

Em dash

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Em dash is one of the most versatile forms of punctuation. It can take the place and add a level of complexity to the traditional comma, parenthesis, or colons.
The em dash separates information within a sentence—represents a break in the sentence. This dash can also be used as a pause in thought.

An em dash is the length of the x-height or the width of an uppercase M—if the font size is 12pts, the em dash is 12pt wide.

Em dash examples

  • When they discovered what the weather would be like during their trip—raining and thunder—they canceled their trip.
  • After months of deliberation, the jurors reached a unanimous verdict⁠—guilty. (found on https://www.thepunctuationguide.com/em-dash.html)

En Dash

" "An En dash symbolizes a link to show ranges in number and dates. In addition, this dash can form complex compound adjectives as well.

The en dash is a mid-sized dash—in between the size of an em dash and a hyphen.

En dashes are half the width of the em dash and size of an uppercase N—if the font size is 12pts, the en dash is 6pt wide.

En dash examples

  • Opus Design’s favorite show, the Office, aired from 2005–2013.
  • The Red Sox won 8–4 against the Dodgers.
  • My grandmother gave me a World War II–era clock.


" "Hyphens are the most commonly used form of dash punctuation.

The hyphen is used to join words or parts of words to make a new meaning. These can, in turn, create compound words as well. Therefore it can be confusing when trying to decide whether to use a hyphen or an en dash. In addition, best practice may be to check a dictionary if you are unsure.

The hyphen is the smallest out of the three dashes—half of the width of an en dash. In regards to the point size, if it is 12pt type, the hyphen would be 3pts wide.

Hyphen examples

  • Editor-in-chief
  • Good-looking
  • Life-size

If you are still unsure, send us a note and we’d be happy to chat em dashes, en dashes and hyphens!

Showing all there dashes
Showing all there dashes

Food Brand Showdown – Tortilla Chips Edition

Many of us have fond memories of our favorite basket of tortilla chips. Since that experience, no other tortilla chip has been able to compare. We may have enjoyed them at a local authentic Mexican restaurant, a national restaurant chain, or at a house party. Wherever it was, those particular tortilla chips had the perfect amount of salt. It had just the right type of crunch. And they scooped up our salsa or guacamole exactly as we had always hoped.

While there are many different claims to the origin of the tortilla chip, there is no questioning their global mass appeal. The retail market size for tortilla chips today is in the many billions of dollars. Dozens of different companies from smaller, regional players to much larger international conglomerates have introduced tortilla chip brands in an effort to win a share of this huge market. So, we thought we would put a few of them to the test in the Opus Tortilla Chip Showdown.

Tortilla chip taste test

We tested 6 different brands of tortilla chips. Wwe purchased these from different supermarkets near our Boston based brand strategy and creative services studio. The 8 of us who participated were not aware of the brands of each of the tortilla chips. We evaluated each brand for Appearance, Taste, Texture, and Dip-ability. Then we gave each tortilla chip an overall favorability rating.

The result

The winner overall and in every individual category was the Mi Nina sea salt tortilla chip. These Mi Nina tortilla chips have a very appetizing artisan appearance, a perfect balance of flavor from the corn, salt, lime, and oil, and a really pleasant crunchy snap. These tortilla chips were also great for dipping in salsa, hummus, and (don’t judge us) Nutella. The Opus team gives Mi Nina tortilla chips two unanimous thumbs up.

Since we are fortunate to serve many clients across different segments of the food and beverage industry with our brand strategy, print design, and website design services, we are always evaluating food and beverage brands. Our showdowns are one of many forms of evaluation. Please stay tuned for future showdown updates and please let us know if there is a category of food or beverage that you would like us to include.

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Opus earns B Corp™ Certification

B-corp LogoWe are so excited to announce that on October 18th, 2019 we officially earned our B Corp™️ Certification. We are deeply honored by the recognition and thrilled about joining this incredible and important community. B Corps are leaders of a global movement of people using business as a force for good. This means businesses that meet the highest verified standards of social and environmental performance, transparency, and accountability.

The Process

The B Corp assessment measures our performance in five categories:

  • governance
  • workers
  • customers
  • community
  • the environment

The certification methodically and thoroughly holds us accountable for credible, comprehensive, transparent, and independent standards of performance. As such, it is one of the only certifications that are not for a product or service, but for the whole business.

Higher Purpose

Opus’ higher purpose is to promote good through purposeful design, so we have always been committed to using our business as a force for good. Pursuing our B Corp certification helped us further strengthen and expand that commitment. And, by signing the B Corp Declaration of Interdependence, we are publicly proclaiming our dedication to creating benefits for all of our stakeholders – not just our shareholders. We are committing to be the change we seek in the world and to be responsible for each other and future generations.

Across the Globe

To date, there are more than 3,000 B Corps across 150 industries and 70 countries around the world. Among many others, some notable B Corps include Patagonia, King Arthur Flour, and Seventh Generation. As part of this community, we look forward to collectively demonstrating that businesses can do well and do good.

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What are hex codes for colors

As designers, we work with colors a lot (shocking, I know!). There are different letter and number codes for these, depending on where they are being used. For the web, we generally use hex codes, and are often asked what hex codes are, so here we go:

#RRGGBBHex codes are a hexadecimal format for identifying colors. This is a system used in HTML, CSS and SVG. Each hex code refers to a very specific color, which allows for two designers or a designer and developer to be on the same page about what exact light blue (or any other color) they are referring to. They are always a six-digit code, which contains three pieces of information:

  1. The first two digits provide information about the amount of Red in a color
  2. The second two digits provide information about the amount of Green
  3. The last two digits provide information about the amount of Blue.

This took me a while to figure out, but when I did, it got me unreasonably excited for a skill that doesn’t have too much of a daily life application. In our work as designers we are constantly using hex codes for colors, but until about five minutes ago I couldn’t really explain to you how they work. Why do they include numbers and letters? Why don’t letters and numbers appear to have an order? Now that I have actually figured it out, I’m going to try breaking it down for you in a step by step manner so that the next time you are choosing a color for a project, you’ll understand this enigmatic 6-digit alphanumeric sequence.

Step 01 – Identify the Red, Green, and Blue (RGB) values

R=252 G=60 B=67Each of these primary colors is measured on a scale of 0-255. First, identify how much of each is present in the hue and write the values down. For this example, I am going to use the Opus Red.

Step 02 – Math

visualization of math formulaSimilar to how the binary system is based on 2, the hexadecimal system is based on the number 16. There might be a smarter and faster way to divide, but for this system at the good old long division method worked best for me. Starting with Red, divide the three values noted down in the previous step by 16.
The factor that you come to at the top of your long division (the blue number in the diagram) is the first value in each couplet. The remainder at the bottom of your long division (the yellow number in the diagram) is the second value.

Step 03 – Convert the numbers to letters

list of numbers and letters that can be usedIn certain cases (like the R-value in this example) the numbers that you arrive at after long division are in the teens and have two digits. Using two digits for a single value breaks the system of #RRGGBB. This is where alphabets come in. The letters A, B, C, D, E, and F replace the values 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, and 15 respectively.


The Result

Opus Red code FC3C43So here you have it: the hex code for the Opus Red is #FC3C43.
Enjoy your new-found knowledge about hexcodes, and let us know if there are any other mysterious terms we can learn about together.


Food brand showdown – hazelnut spread edition

When most people we know hear the word “Nutella”, their eyes light up and they start salivating to the edge of drooling. So, you can imagine when we learned that one of our awesome clients had never tried this silky smooth, chocolaty, hazelnut spread, we felt a responsibility to awaken her to the magic of Nutella.

The idea

We are fortunate to serve many clients across different segments of the food and beverage industry with our brand strategy and creative design services. This means we get to learn about many different approaches to tasting and comparing food. This particular Nutella-neophyte client conducts “showdowns” with her team to evaluate new products against similar products that are already in the market. We loved the idea of a showdown. So we borrowed it as the format for her first exposure to Nutella.

The taste test

In addition to Nutella, we identified four other kinds of hazelnut spread. We set up a blind tasting by putting a small amount of each spread on separate spoons and we offered neutral flavored snacks and water as palate cleansers in between each sample to help ensure the most accurate assessments. We asked each of our 9 tasters, 2 were our clients and 7 were Opus team members who were in the studio that day, to select the one hazelnut spread they most loved overall for flavor and texture. Here were the results:

  • 3 Nutella
  • 3 Store Brand
  • 2 Alternate “Conventional” Brand
  • 1 Alternate “Natural” Brand

The results

The taste testing showdown results were much closer than we expected. For us Nutella fanatics, it was gratifying to see Nutella at the top, even though it was technically tied for first.

Nutella CakeThis was by no means an official tasting, but we had a ton of fun and the sugar rush carried us through the rest of the afternoon. For several weeks after, our studio was in a Nutella frenzy. Julia, our co-founder, brought some samples of Nutella from Germany for us to taste the differences in formulas and Lily, our other co-founder, baked an incredible cake with a Nutella cream for us all to enjoy. And, our amazing client had an official Nutella spoon engraved for us.

This was our first Opus Food Brand Showdown but we had so much fun that we plan on making this a tradition at our studio. Please stay tuned for future showdown updates and please let us know if there is a category of food or beverage that you would like us to include.

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What are different type classifications

As graphic designers, we talk about typefaces a lot. In talking with our clients, we realize that there are a lot of basics that are not commonly understood. So here are some type classifications should may help you sound knowledgeable when talking with designers:


Serif typefaces are those that have the little feet on the on the ends of each stroke. I have heard many stories as to why they exist but they are essentially an artifact of chiseled or carved letters. They typically tend to feel more classic and formal. In print based media, serif typefaces are easier to read at smaller sizes than sans serif typefaces. (This rule doesn’t apply to digital media as much because digital resolution is not as high as print which can muddy up the serifs)

Old Style

Visualization of old style lettersThese typefaces date back to the late 1600s to the mid 1700s. These faces have a very closer relationship to a calligraphers’ nib. The earlier Venetian Old Styles follow the calligraphic mannerisms of that period and can be identified by the slopping ‘e’ crossbar.

Examples for this are:

  • Adobe Garamond
  • Centaur
  • Bembo

Key Features are:

  • Left inclined axis
  • Low stroke contrast
  • Angled head serifs and bracketed serifs


Visualization of transitional lettersTransitional typefaces date back to the mid 1700s. They are a sort of in between Old Style and Modern faces and contain characteristics of both. Jacques Jaugeon (1690-1710) is said to have created the first Transitional typeface called Romain du Roi or King’s Roman. This typeface was the basis for the very familiar Times New Roman.

Examples for this are:

  • Baskerville
  • Times New Roman
  • Georgia

Key Features are:

  • More vertical axis
  • Higher stroke contrast
  • Flat sharper serifs

Modern or Didone

Visualization of modern lettersModern typefaces were a departure from the classical typefaces and have very harsh differences in thick and thin strokes. Firmin Didot (1764-1836), a French printer followed by Giambattista Bodoni, an Italian typographer are credited with establishing this style. These are typically clean and elegant typefaces that aren’t generally suited for large body text (due to their high contrast and vertical nature).

Examples are:

  • Didot
  • Bodoni
  • Walbaum

Key Features are:

  • Very dramatic contrast in stroke weight
  • Vertical axis
  • Minimal bracketing of serif and ball shape terminals


This group is also referred to as Slab Serif or Egyptian. Bold and decorative square typefaces came about in the nineteenth century for advertising purposes in Britain. These faces were meant to scream from the paper and really draw the viewers attention. A sub category of the Slab Serif are the Clarendons. Clarendons followed the same look and feel of the Slabs but were a bit more restrained to make them more appropriate for body text.

Examples are:

  • Rockwell
  • Serifa
  • Clarendon

Key Features are:

  • Heavy slab-like square serifs
  • No bracketing
  • Very low stroke contrast


Visualization of glyphic lettersGlyphic typefaces are those that try to mimic typefaces that have been chiseled or engraved into a surface instead of those that have been drawn by pen.

Examples are:

  • Friz Quadrata
  • Albertus
  • Elan

Key Features are:

  • Low contrast stroke weight
  • Flared triangular serifs
  • Vertical axis

Sans Serif

Sans Serif typefaces are those that do not have the little feet on the ends of each stroke. They feel much more contemporary and friendly. Sans Serif typefaces are often used at a large scale to have a straightforward big and bold impact.


Visualization of grotesque lettersThis includes most of the earlier sans serif from the 19th century to the early 20th century. They very often feel like serif typefaces with the serifs just chopped off. These typefaces were revolutionary for their time and were thought to be grotesque looking. Since they are a starting point for san serifs, they often have a few peculiar quirks such as uneven stroke thickness, spurred ‘G’s and curved ‘R’s.

Examples are:

  • Akidenz Grotesk
  • Ideal Grotesk
  • Franklin Gothic

Key features are:

  • Squared off curves
  • Some stroke contrast
  • Two story “g”

Neo Grotesque

Visualization of neo grotesque lettersThese typeface were designed to be simple and very straightforward. They are meant to function as anonymous and almost universal typefaces. They first came around with the development of the Intenational Typographic Style or the Swiss style. Many of these faces are based off the earlier grotesques but attempt to clean out the quirks to create very neutral typefaces.

Examples are:

  • Helvetica
  • Univers
  • DIN

Key features are:

  • Very low to no stroke contrast
  • Singel story “g”
  • Horizontal terminals


Visualization of humanist lettersAs the name suggests, Humanist sans serif have a more friendly human feel to them and their varying stroke weight is meant to be reminiscent of the handmade calligraphic letter. These typefaces tend to pair well with Old Style serifs due to their shared base qualities. Edward Johnston (1872-1944) was a British craftsman who developed the typeface Johnston which was one of the first Humanist typefaces in 1916.

Examples are:

  • Optima
  • Verdana
  • Frutiger

Key features are:

  • Calligraphic stroke variations
  • Angled terminals and connections
  • Oval shapes and open counters


Visualization of geometric lettersGeometric sans serifs attempt to further simplify letterforms by basing them entirely on geometric shapes like circles, squares, and triangles. Their structure makes it a bit difficult to read when set in large body text and letters like the circular ‘o’ and single story ‘a’ have a tendency to get confused with each other at a small size. Herbert Bayer, Jakob Erbar, and Paul Renner were the pioneers of this style. Fun fact – Paul Renner’s Futura is the typeface used for the plaque placed on the moon by Aldrin and Armstrong.

Examples are:

  • Futura
  • Erbar
  • Avant Garde

Key features are:

  • Geometric shapes
  • Low to no stroke contrast
  • Single story “a” and “g”


Script typefaces are meant to mimic handwriting almost exactly. This includes writing with a variety of different tools (nibs, markers, pens etc.). They can all be classified into Casual, Formal, and Blackletter. Due to the nature of typefaces, the natural variation between each letter that occurs while writing by hand is difficult to translate to the computer. Some classic examples include Mistral and Zapfino. Contemporary foundries like Underware have created typefaces that have varying letterforms for repeated letters and feel closer to the organic experience.


This is a far-reaching category that covers almost everything that does not fit under any of the previously mentioned categories. These typefaces usually have a lot of character and each individual typeface can convey a very specific mood. These are usually best used for display text. Some of my favorites include Beatrice Display, Noe Display, and MAD Serif.

To hear more about how we use fonts and typefaces, or just to chat:

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Color basics

As a design agency, our clients often ask us about color basics, how we choose certain colors and what colors go together or may clash. Here are some color basics that you might find helpful:

Additive and Subtractive Color Basics


Visualization of additive colorThis model is based on the mixing of light. The three primary colors of this system are Red, Green, and Blue (RGB). When we see color created by any light source – like a TV, or computer monitor, or a projector – the three colors mix together at different levels to create every other color. When Red, Green, and Blue are all mixed together you get pure white. When designing for web or mobile, since the final outcome will be a screen, we work in this RGB mode.



Visualization of substractive colorThis model is based on the mixing of pigment. From finger painting to magazine prints, any color that is on a physical surface follows this color system. Traditionally, particularly when thinking in terms of painting, the primary colors are Red, Yellow, and Blue. Most painter’s color wheels would follow that system. However, with the advances in printing technology the Cyan, Magenta, Yellow, and Black (CMYK) system provided more options for printers. To avoid any confusion Black is referred to by the letter ‘K’ so as not to be mixed up with Blue. When designing for anything that will be printed (magazine, posters, banner etc.), it is important to set up your workspace in CMYK.



The Color Wheel

Visualization of color wheelSir Isaac Newton created the first color wheel based on spectral hues and the mixture of lights. Today, we mostly study the color wheel from the subtractive method. It is an arrangement of hues in a chromatic manner that makes it possible for us to understand the relationships between colors.

Primary Colors

Visualization of primary colorsThe three primary colors are Red, Yellow, and Blue. They cannot be formed by the mixing of any other colors and by mixing them you get all other colors.

Secondary Colors

Visualization of secondary colorsThese are the colors that are produced by mixing neighboring primary colors.
Red + Yellow = Orange
Yellow + Blue = Green
Blue + Red = Purple

Tertiary Colors

Visualization of tertiary colorsBy continuing the mixing process, but now including the secondary colors, we arrive at the tertiary colors.


Color schemes are established systems that can come in handy while choosing colors for a project. Designers chose to use a specific scheme depending on the desired effect they want the colors to have.

Complimentary Colors

Visualization of complimentary colorsThis is a set of two colors that lie directly opposite each other on the color wheel. These colors produce a very high contrast effect. For example, the complimentary color to Orange is Blue.

Analogous Colors

Visualization of analogous colorsThis is a set of colors that lie right next to each together on the color wheel. These colors create a smoother and calmer combination. Typically, one color out of this scheme dominates and the other colors support or accent it. Orange-Red and Orange-Yellow create an analogous scheme with Orange.

Split Complimentary

Visualization of split complementary colorsI like to think of this as a combination of the complimentary and analogous Schemes. This color scheme has a similar high-impact as the complementary color scheme but is a little more harmonious like the analogous scheme. A split compliment is formed by one color and the two colors on either side of its compliment. In the case of Orange, its compliment is Blue and the two colors on either side of Blue are Blue-Purple and Blue-Green. In this way, Orange, Blue-Purple and Blue-Green form a split compliment.


Visualization of triadic colorsThese colors lie evenly spaced out and can be located by creating an equilateral triangle through the color wheel. This scheme tends to be vibrant and dynamic and it is usually a good idea again to use one as a dominant color and the other two as supporting colors. Orange, Green, and Purple form a triadic color scheme.

Shade, Tint and Tone

Visualization of share, tone and tintAnother way to get more variations of a single color is to add black, grey, or white to any color on the color wheel. Each color on the color wheel is a specific hue. When the hues are modified in this manner, they become desaturated and they lose some dominance or intensity of that specific hue.


Tins are formed when a percentage of white is added to a hue. This lightens and makes a hue paler. This does not mean that the color gets brighter because the adding of white also has a desaturating effect.


Tones are formed when a percentage of grey (black and white) is added to a hue. This tones down or dulls the intensity of a hue. Since both black and white are added to a hue in this situation, tones tend to have more complex qualities.


Shades are formed a percentage of black is added to a hue. Shades tend to be darker and more intense than the original hue. Depending on the amount of black added, the color can be just a little darker that the original hue or very dark and almost black.

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Women-Owned Business of the Year

Am Dienstag, dem 7. Juni 2017, wurde Opus Design als das Frauenunternehmen des Jahres in Massachusetts geehrt. Julia und ich erhielten diese bedeutende Auszeichnung von William M. McAvoy, stellvertretender Assistant Secretary and Chief Legal Counsel, Supplier Diversity Office, Operational Services Division.

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Seit 2014 sind wir ein zertifiziertes von Frauen geführtes Unternehmen und der Preis basiert auf dem Wachstum der letzten zwei Jahre, 2015 und 2016.

Die Zeremonie fand in der Großen Halle der Flaggen statt, in der alle Städte von  Massachusetts vertreten sind. Wir fanden die Groton-Fahne (wo Emily herkommt) und die Yarmouth-Fahne (wo Ellery aufgewachsen ist) und hatten nicht genügend Zeit, um nach anderen besonderen Orten zu suchen.

Gary Lambert, Assistant Secretary, Operational Services Division sprach über den staatlichen Auftrag, die Vielfalt der Regierungsausgaben zu unterstützen und die Fortschritte, die im vergangenen Jahr gemacht wurden. Sieben Abteilungen erhielten Auszeichnungen für die Überschreitung ihrer Benchmarks. Neben Opus gab es sechs weitere Unternehmen, die in ihren jeweiligen Kategorien gewonnen haben, darunter Minority-Owned Business, Fernandes Line Construction.

Einige der Projekte, die wir für den Staat entworfen haben, sind das T-Dashboard und das Logo sowie die Forschungsberichte für die Massachusetts Health Policy Commission.

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Am Ende unseres Besuches haben wir ein paar der schönen Räume angeschaut und mit Julias Hilfe kam es zu einem Schnappschuss von unserem Team und dem Gouverneur. Daumen hoch!