For those of you who also follow me on twitter, you should know by now how absolutely crazy life has been. In the month of December I organized an event called Help-Portrait in New Haven and it literally monopolized my entire month. Before I knew it, it was Christmas and New Years and on New Years Eve we signed the lease for the studio so that brings me to know. Spent this week putting together a ton of IKEA furniture. Matt could the death flu (i made up that name) and he was out of commission for 7 days which means I did a lot of the moving.
Here is a really amazing project we did just a week before things got out of hand crazy. I think this was probably one of the most fun projects because the stars of this little movie were so entertaining themselves and the concept was really neat. I was involved in directing the shoot and conceptualizing scenes and shots as well as some minimal styling. Larissa Lake and her team did all of the hair and make and they were amazing – can’t wait to work with them again.
Few things are as beautiful as a Swatch
Maybe it’s because it’s the Christmas season, but I have been posting a lot about products and retail items. I think it’s mostly because it’s Xmas and I have been getting barraged in my inbox with very tempting email marketing ploys. Today on my facebook page was a post from Swatch and I just couldn’t resist checking out their new line.
The beauty and class with a mix of fun hipster that encompasses the entire swatch brand is something I can truly appreciate. I was browsing the line of new ladies watches and came across this gem and just wanted to share it.
It’s called the Swatch Collar Girl watch and I love everything about it. The flowing black line around the edge, the cute little bow ties down the center, but it’s the elegant typeface on the watch’s face that I really love. I spent some time trying to figure out what it is to not avail. If you have a clue, let me know because I’m very curious.
What’s the purpose?
Oswego, NY amazing sky - photo by BSC Photo
It’s a question that I am always asking myself in so many aspects of my life. If you are like me, and on a budget, you are very used to asking “do I really need this”. Well, the same goes for almost every aspect of design. Whether we are dealing with logos, web design, or even fashion, you need to learn to take a step back and ask yourself “do I really need this?” If the answer is yes, then you have to ask your self “what’s the purpose?” Why do you need it?
Simply asking yourself if you need something or not will not always lead to editing yourself. There are many times a designer will think that they absolutely must have this drop shadow effect on this text. If they asked themselves “do I need this” that would very easily answer yes. However, if you asked them why they need it, chances are they will not have a great answer if the effect or graphic is not well thought out.
To me, the difference between art and design is thought and purpose. You do art to express yourself as an artist and you can leave your work to be interpreted in many different ways. With design, however, if your final product is open to different types of interpretations then you failed. Design is meant to communicate a very specific message whether it be a brand’s ethics, a company’s style, or to announce something. A designer has to put specific meaning into every element that they contribute to this project.
There are many times where a client will come to be after submitting a mock up and ask me to make something larger, change the color of something, or rearrange something. It’s extremely common and there are a million websites* out there dedicated to this client vs. designer conflict. Because I am very good at designing with a purpose, when a client asks me to change things like color and size, I always have an answer for them as to why it works the way it is. I am not saying that everything I do is perfect and we never do revisions for clients (we do them often). There are aspects of a company that only the business owner would understand and know and there are aspects of design that I know more than the owner of the business.
As designers we need to be prepared to be asked “can you change this”. In order to prepare you simply have to make sure that you have a purpose for your design so that you can stand behind your choices when necessary. Typically if a client requests a size change on the banner, graphic, or some other element, they get a long email explaining the divine proportion and explaining that if the area were to be changed it would throw off the rest of the design. When a client sees that I know what I am doing and it wasn’t just an arbitrary decision, they understand my choices better.
If you are a designer and you are sitting here thinking that it’s impossible to have a reason for every single element that you put into a project, then you should send some time in design classes and understand the elements of great design a little more. Look at some of the best graphic artists out there and ask yourself why it works. You will quickly realize that it works because there are elements in there drawing your eye to specific points and colors that make you feel something different.
I promise you that if you do this not only will your design skills improve and you will grow as a designer, but you will be much more prepared to deal with client requests for arbitrary changes.
Designing and identity is more than just making a logo
Phew, first I have to do the happy dance – ITS DONE ITS DONE ITS DONE! I have been working on this website for months, and it’s definitely one of my proudest moments to know that it is launched and ready for business. This website is massive, but I will explain the website in another post, this is about the identity and branding.
When you hire a company to design a brand for you (not just a simple logo design, but a brand) you should receive more than just a logo. A brand, as I have explained a million times in this blog and in individual conversations, is a package. It includes color standards, font options, and any additional graphical and illustrative elements that are part of the brand as a whole. Things like buttons, headers, and styles for text create a solid brand identity throughout all of your marketing materials and creates a standard for creation when you start working with a new designer.
We offer a brand package to clients who purchase our middle or upper level brand packages, and the clients who receive the brand standards package are always very happy they did in the long run because it means their future promotional materials all have that look that they are happy with. When this new client came to me she had a logo and nothing more – I had to even dig just to get the name of the font in the logo!
Since I was creating a website for her based solely on a logo, I was the designer who ended up creating the brand identity, so I thought it would be nice to give her a brand package. First I want you to see the logo as it was given to me:
Now, I really like this logo – I am definitely in love with this logo. It was the inspiration for the entire website that I designed which (i feel) has turned out to be one of my favorite websites ever. Even though this logo came with some pantone colors to be used as the logo color, that was it. There were no standards for background colors, fonts, or additional styles for use along side this logo. It basically leaves the client feeling like “Great, I have a logo – now what?”
So here is what I put together after spending a lot of time and development time with the brand:
Now, this document actually has a few elements more than would typically be in a brand package document, but it is still a lot more than what the client had when she came to me. Typically a brand standards package would have most of what is there, and additional elements like the custom icons, and illustrative elements would need to be requested by the client or spoke about previously with the client. You should not expect to receive a brand standards document with icons and illustrations if you do not request these elements to be a part of your identity. You should, however expect the rest of what you see on there. The little hearts as an element for a heading, the button graphics, and the background color paired with the logo are all part of what will create a solid brand for the client. When you look at this document you can see how having this as a part of your branding will create limitless possibilities for design and promotion.
I am really very happy with the way the final project looks!! What do you think?
Initiating Change Pt. 2
If you didn’t get to read my first article about initiating change, check it out here. Otherwise, just continue reading.
So once you have figured out the problem that you need to solve (in this case, the lack of quality design and art in the world) you need to come up with a solution. In the last article I spoke about how the frustrations of graphic designers are compounded with the influx of “mac rat” designers. I also strongly stand behind the fact that the reason people are willing to hire inferior graphic designers is because they do not know what good design is or what it does.
The solution to this problem is to educate, educate, educate. Raising money is not the only way to support a cause, and raising awareness of a cause is almost as important as raising donation money. The goal is to soak the people in your community in the basking glow of great art and design, and in doing so you are educating the public. You don’t have to stand on the street corner shouting about a what makes a good logo, and you definitely do not have to preach to people, but you do have to educate.
How do you show people quality design? In my opinion, through art and experience. If you can pull together a group of like minded and creative people in your area you have already won half the battle. The other half is figuring out a way to engage your community. Sometimes the plan will fall right in your lap and other times it will take a lot of work to pull off, in either case, it works.
How do you organize an event that will make an impact? Well, that depends on your community. Some of the best and easiest ways to hold and event is to piggy back on another event. Most of the time organizations do not have a budget for design but would never turn away free help. If there is an organization that you stand behind, contact them and see what you can do in order to help. Let’s say, for instance, you fully support the Human Society and they are holding a massive dog adoption event in a city near you. This is your time to shine as a creative artist. Contact them and tell them what you do and what your plans are. Let them know that you would like to raise awareness for their organization as well as raising awareness for art and design. Submit your portfolio and possibly even an example of a piece of work that you would like for them to use.
The great thing about creating socially responsible design is that even if the organization you pitch it to does not use it, it is still an exception piece of art that can evoke the feeling you intended. With a creative poster that expresses your connection with animal rights, you can communicate a message of social responsibility with or without an organization to pair it to. Pairing with a non profit organization not a nessecary step.
You can also hold your own events, rallies, or galleries. Pick a cause and rally for it, you don’t need to have a non profit to back you, just get some information out to the public in the form of great brochures, posters, or pamphlets. Put together a gallery of great pieces of art and design in a place where people will see it regularly. Find out if an owner of any public building will allow you to display your team’s work. Pick a cause to back with your design and you can make an even larger impact.
My point is, surround your community with art and design, and the industry as a whole will benefit. These are the reasons why places like Portland and NYC have such a great community of designers and artists. These people put their effort not just in making money, but initiating change. There is no reason why Portland is one of the best cities to be an artist except for the community of artists that exist there. Generate your own community and start to pull local people together.
And guess what? In doing this, you are going to make some amazing connections and generate interest for your services. You will not only be educating local businesses on design and art, but you will be putting the word out there about your business, i say this from experience.
My point – get off your butt and do something!
How do I initiate change? pt. 1 – the problem
I have been hearing this question so much lately. Maybe it’s because people are getting so sick of the state of the nation as a whole, maybe it’s because I have my ear to the ground more. No matter what the reason, I would like to answer this question publicly.
I don’t have any misconceptions about my little blog here. I know a I have a solid small group of regular readers and a bunch of passers by, so I know that this is not a nation-wide platform. I also know that if I can give a few people ideas on how to initiate change and get inspiration to do so, this post will have served it’s purpose.
Basically, I hear designers all the time complaining about what we like to call “mac rats” These mac rats, bottom feeders, and $50 logo designers are the bane of a lot of designers’ existence. Although these types of designers really chap my hide, they do not infuriate me like they do other designers, they do still drive me almost to the point of insanity. Why? because these home-made designers who are good with a computer and own the Adobe Creative Suite are the reason that the average Joe’s perception of design is dumbed down.
So many designers complain that small businesses are turning to their neighbor’s kid down the street to is “pretty artistic” or the major corporations who hire the in house secretary to start designing brochures because “she’s good with word and has an extensive clipart gallery”. All of these things are clearly in the vein of saving money. If you think about it logically, why would you spend more for the exact same service?
This is where you, as a designer, start screaming in your head about “It’s not the same! My logo design is more money because you get a high quality design…(blah)(blah)” Well, save your breath, I know that argument and have said it myself over and over again but guess what, this holds no water when you are talking to someone who does not see good design. We are talking about people who are surrounded daily with seeing more and more crap design. Ah ha!There is the real problem!
Did I just say that the problem was the client not seeing good design? Are you telling me that you are going to show them good design in your portfolio? Well, again, save it. You can not just show someone a portfolio of great work and tell them that it is good design because we all know that really good design has to speak to you. When our clients are deaf to design, how do we get them to listen?
People in general are becoming deaf to quality design because there is so much stuff out there posing as good design that people have a hard time understand what separates one from the other. There are loads of $50 logo companies out there boasting top notch designers with quality outcomes and guess what, at first look, that is what you see. I mean, look at places like crowspring or just google “affordable logo design” and you will see that a lot of the sites out there are actually nicely designed, look professional, and show the best work on the front page.
These websites, while definitely feeding the problem, are not the actual problem. The real problem, as I stated before, is that people are blind, deaf, or indifferent to good design. Next time you are out in your town, head to your green (or strip mall) and have a look. Look at what you are surrounded by. Crappy logos, advertisements, and branding that range from a small mom and pop store to the major corporations. When people see design, most of the time they are told whether or not it is good. When they see a major corporation’s design projects they instantly assume that it must be good because big corporations have the money to pay the professionals.
Now, after you have a look at all of the advertisements and design elements that you are surrounded by, have a look and see what type of art you see (if any). Do you have a community or artists? Do you see any good design or art in your community at all? If you expect your clients to know and understand what quality design is, where do you expect them to get that information from?
So you can probably see where I can getting at with the solution. My solution is grass roots all the way. You might be shooting for that national campaign with a company that already told you that they have their secretary on the brochure making case, but if all of us start making a difference in our own communities, there will be a national difference made!
stay tuned for part 2
p.s. wanna know what Creatives for a Cause is? Stay tuned for that as well!
Photographing our work
Here are some pictures of our work, it’s nothing new, but photographing and posting it just seems to give the work we have done new life. Yes, you can absolutely get a solid idea of the designs we create by looking at the illustrated file of the work, but there is nothing better than looking at the tactile pieces that are a product of our work. We love the stuff that we do and when the physical products make it to our office and then out into the world, it feels like you are letting our babies out into the world.
So again, here are some pictures of some of our favorite projects.
It’s bunny season..
photo by aline potter
But you know, bunnies are for life, not for Easter. So if you read this and were considering buying one of those cute little bunnies that are for sale in the front of the pet store as an Easter gift, please think it through. Bunnies are cute, cuddly, and fun pets but there are a few things you should know. They aren’t always friendly, and the old they get the more crankier they get. As a matter of fact, my husband had a bunny when I met him (his name was Bun and he was 10 years old) and he was scary. He was babied by my father in law, but he hated most people. He would lunge at you if you tried to touch him, but my FIL was able to really cuddle him. So yea, they aren’t all bunnies and furriness (well, i guess they are but you get it).
Anyways, bunnies are also a lot of work. You can’t just keep them in a cage 24/7! They like to roam free, hop around, and CHEW EVERYTHING. Bun once chewed through my FIL’s work papers, luckily he was very forgiving otherwise he might have made rabbit soup. They also have an odor no matter how often you clean their cage, and finally, you need to clean the cage at least once a week.
It’s just the tip of the iceberg in bunny care, and I know this is entirely off-topic for my blog, but it’s Easter and you all should know that I am a serious animal welfare advocate. I hate to see unwanted bunnies hanging around 6 months after Easter when the novelty wears off. So take it from me, someone who knows the “dark side” of bunnies.
Have a happy and safe Easter! I promise loads of pictures from the day, it’s going to be massive – about 50 people will be there at mom’s house. So fun times!
Bitter Sweet Spring
So it’s really truly here – spring. It has pretty much sprung and I am, for the most part, extremely excited for the warm weather. I always wondered what it would be like living in a place like Hawaii that was perpetually beautiful. I have a feeling I just would not have the excitement about the awesome beautiful, sunny days that are coming. Here in the New York area, we got slammed (and I mean stomped, chewed, and spit out) by two massive storms. Flooding, winds that take down full trees, and pouring rain had everyone in the tri-state area down in the dumps. Some people cleaned out their basements, others were repairing their roof and removing the tree that fell through it.
What did I do? I buried myself into this computer and got a load of work done. I had a deadline on Monday and boy was it good to (almost) get done on time. We have some great clients, and the one whom I was designing a website for are one of the best ones we have. We basically work as their entire creative department. We design brochures, post cards, magazine ads, and now their website. They even held a dinner where they honored our work and thanked their clients.
So when we met them, they had no logo and some crappy business cards and their website.. Well, I should let it speak for itself. I wouldn’t say it was the worse site I have ever seen (we have all seen those that make you cringe) but this was definitely a heck of a mess under the hood. Apparently the website was built in photo-shop and then the “developer” just sliced it up in fireworks and Dreamweaver and done! Well, designing a website like that can yield something that looks decent, but try expanding on the site. You know, businesses, they grow, change, morph. A website that is photo-shopped together really doesn’t deal well at all with any type of change. You are lucky if you can easily change a simple text area.
The site also overall had a rather blah feel.The dark grey on top of another grey over red just wasn’t doing it. There were different type faces all over and a mix of rounded corners and straight lines that just made me uneasy about the whole feel. Oh, and the larger your monitor, the more the design actually pulled apart because of the photo-shopping. One thing I noticed during my research for this project was that most lawyers’ websites don’t look at that wonderful. I mean, I don’t expect some crazy graphics or animations, but most of them are rather blah! If the firm has a logo, there’s no branding, no nothing! So we decided to stick with “professional” but move away from blah and towards branded.
As you can see we really cleaned up the site and make it much cleaner but kept the nice darkish theme. This website is built on a content management system so that the clients can easily edit or add content without worrying about any knowledge of coding. They can even drag and drop positions of the side bar content and links. We continued the theme of the logo with the red square in the headers of various page title areas and content titles. I feel that those little sqaures bring life to an otherwise sanitized design.
We also knew we wanted something more organic for the background of the website but we weren’t entirely sure what to put there. We played with gradients and textures until we finally settled on what you see there. That is a picture Matt took of Phildelphia’s town hall. The business owners have offices in Philly, Hartford, NY and more but Philly is where one of the owner’s heart is, so we used that picture as the main background.
Overall we are super happy with the website as are the business owners. We took the time to learn the owner’s personalities as well as the specifics of their business and then ran with it.
I kept all of the mock ups and specs that we worked with over time, so I think that I might do a progress post on this website in the future. I can pull it all together so you can see how we ended up here, instead of just the final result. It’s one of those things that I always found interesting from other designers, so why not do it myself?
A massive marketing/identity undertaking
I haven’t had the chance to put out very many blog posts lately, and the major source of my time-suck is The Girl Spot LLC. They are a new and unique start-up business that focuses around femininity, sensuality, and fitness. Yes, it’s a fitness center that offers pole dancing! They came to us with a huge idea and not a lot on paper and needed some serious consultations and work with how they will display their business to the world. The owners were definitely dead set on staying sexy without being raunchy, and there is most definitely a fine line between sex and S.E.X.
First off was the concept of the logo. The name was there when we were brought into the project, and this was one of the first times where the name really fit with what we visualized the logo being. The Girl Spot, obviously a flirty little play on a woman’s G-spot was again a fine line between sex and raunch, so we worked extra hard to get the “g” across so that it was obvious, but not too obvious. The logo evolved into what you see below, and from there the identity flourished.
The next step from the logo was the pattern creation, colors, and fonts. We stayed away from the typical hot pink and black which you see on many “girly” items out there. They actually didn’t want to be “girly” but more womanly. We chose a really awesome blue paired with brown to give a much more sophisticated look. That, paired with the baroque style wall paper pattern really pulled the entire identity away from sex and girly and right into sensual and feminine – goal achieved!
The website quickly pulled together once the color pallet and pattern was solidified. We took the direction of tactile features with the ribbon effects and textures in gradients and scalloped edges. The website is still very much in development though, as we will be pulling the classes page apart and created individual pages for each class. We are also putting a lot of effort into developing an online reservation system for clients and a back-end administration area for the business owners to deal with client purchases and registrations.
And once all that was done, the marketing went into full force mass effect! We created a press release that was both available printed and electronic formats and we got those out to as many press agencies as possible. The feedback from these people was great and we received some press coverage for the business and more are rolling in. We put together a massive movement on facebook to get the information about a grand opening event We invited the press to this event and received some great coverage as well.
Now that the business is officially open, the marketing is really just starting to take off. strategizing everything from the beginning idea to the execution of the grand opening was really exciting and we can’t wait to do it again with another company!