Case Studies and Other Articles
By Laura M
Protected: Project Case Study: Bringing Warranty Online
On 27, Sep 2016 | No Comments | In Blog, Design, Usability | By Laura M
By Laura M
Protected: Project Case Study: The Relaunch of DRHorton.com
On 23, Sep 2016 | No Comments | In Blog, Design, Usability | By Laura M
By Laura M
Branding Starts with a Vision: Details of the “Vision Board” Process
On 26, Mar 2010 | 2 Comments | In Blog, Logos | By Laura M
I recently did a blog post on the logo design process for one of my clients, and have had some questions about step one of the process, “Define the Style with a Vision Board.” I hope to elaborate on this process and its significance when creating a brand for a client.
I think that a key step in creating a brand or a logo is to understand what your client is looking for visually. This can be a little tricky, because clients are not usually designers, and at times, can find it challenging to demonstrate or articulate what it is that they are looking for. I know I have heard the phrase “I don’t know what I want, but I’ll know it when I see it,” from many clients. So, to avoid frustration and wasted design time on both the client end and my end, I found that creating a “Vision Board” is a great first step to get the client and I (the designer) on the same page before design work begins.
So, what is a “Vision Board”?
A Vision Board is a collection of inspiration images or objects that visually demonstrate the branding goals of the client. This can include other logos, pictures, illustrations, other design work, fabric, wood, metal, just about anything. The objects are then all put on a board (either a physical or electronic) to create an aspirational collage. The goal of the board is to create a foundation for the creative direction of the project. Basically, the board establishes a “style” that will remain consistent throughout the design process.
How is the “Vision Board” created?
It really depends on the client. If the client has a pretty good idea of what they would like to see, and have given me enough information to start, I created a vision board for the client to ensure that we are on track with a defined style for the project. This is an essential first step in my experience, simply because design elements can be very subjective. Even something as simple as the color blue can be viewed differently by two people. It is important that you clarify design details visually.
On the other hand, if the client doesn’t really know what they want, or has a vague idea of what they would like to see, I assign the client homework. I ask that they find at least four examples of a visual element that visually represents their business or what they would like there company image to be. Four examples are usually few enough to not be overwhelming to the client, and enough for me to see a general direction or consistency. If I receive the examples and there isn’t consistency, I meet with the client to discuss each example and why they selected it. This meeting usually clarifies any confusion on the direction of the project.
By Laura M
Logo Design Update for Brandpointe
On 16, Feb 2010 | 4 Comments | In Blog, Logos | By Laura M
Brandpointe is an industry leader in career training, employee productivity and performance solutions. Brandpointe offers two distinct training paths – Work Ready and Job Ready. JobReady is designed for individuals looking to make a career change or to move up within their field. WorkReady is designed for people that have a job that are looking to expand their skill set, or the skill set of their employees, through training sessions, learning events, and individual study. In addition, a new program called Ovation is designed for anyone looking to network and connection with others in the Brandpointe community.
In December, I was very fortunate to meet Jasmin Brand of Brandpointe at a Spark Club meeting/networking event. Shortly following the event, Jasmin and I began to discuss her business and her upcoming upgrades, including the addition of the Ovation community and the launch of a new online classroom to the website. With all of these upcoming improvements, Jasmin and her team at Brandpointe were looking to upgrade their current identity and add cobranded identities for Job Ready, Work Ready, and Ovation.
Determine the Style Guide
Because this was an upgrade, and not a redesign, the overall style of the logo had already been established. The logo would be lowercase, with an emphasis put on the “e” in Brandpointe, there would be some kind of dot grid/pattern in the icon, and the colors would remain consistent. The goal was to create something more polished, not to create an entirely new identity.
Determining the style guide from this starting point was focused on selecting a typeface and an updated color palette (color palette options shown below). Several rounds of typefaces and colors were discussed, but ultimately a serif font with an updated cerulean blue was selected to represent the new Brandpointe.
Create an Updated Icon
The new tag-line for Brandpointe was determined before design took place. It was imperative that the new tagline, “Bringing education full circle,” be represented by the new logo. For this reason, it was proposed that the new logo icon represent a circle more than a grid in the design execution. Several placement options were sketched out and discussed, but it was ultimately decided to have the icon at the end of the logo to emphasis the “e” in Brandpointe.
Creation of Cobranded Logo – Job Ready, Work Ready, and Ovation
The cobranded logos were programs within Brandpointe, and needed to relate back to the original logo. Since Job Ready and Work Ready were both training paths, it was determined that these cobrands should share the same style. The blue and the green in the Job Ready and Work Ready logos match the colors in the Brandpointe logo. It also further supports the branding goals, since the circles within the icon of the Brandpointe icon match the logo icons for Job Ready and Work Ready.
The cobranded logo for Ovation was treated a little differently. In our initial meeting, Ovation was described as the “Twitter” of Brandpointe. So the identity should be relevant to the Brandpointe logo, but also be able to stand alone as with it’s own identity independent of Brandpointe. The decided upon icon for the Ovation logo was the same as the Brandpointe logo but with a different typeface and color palette.
Now that the design process is complete, I am helping Jasmin and the Brandpointe team with the implemention of the logo on all social media channels and the new website (set to launch March 1st). Soon to come will also be updated business cards and office signage.
By Laura M
Logo Design Process for Lindsay Stoulil, Chef and Nutritionist
On 04, Jan 2010 | 6 Comments | In Blog, Logos | By Laura M
Lindsay Stoulil is a New York City-based personal chef and nutritionist. She is a Registered Dietitian and strives to make food for her clients that is both nutritious and delicious. Her website, fridgeandtunnel.com, showcases her blog of recipe ideas and nutritional information.
In June of this year, Lindsay posted on her Facebook status that she was in need of a logo. I quickly responded to her query and we started work on the logo. Because Lindsay is in New York and I am in the Dallas, TX area, there was no in person interaction on this project. Lindsay and I began brainstorming over email about what she envisioned for her company and what she hoped to achieve with her brand identity.
Define the Style with a Vision Board
The first step I take in a logo design is to define a style with a “Vision Board”. This is a helpful in establishing a style guide draft and being more efficient in executing the design. In most cases, if the client and I agree on the Vision Board, the rest of the logo process goes much more smoothly then if I begin the design without one.
Because Lindsay and I were corresponding over email, I sent her several links with different inspirational sites online and asked her to tag a few things that she felt identified the direction she would like to take with her branding. She found illustrations from different sources that all had a similar style. It became clear that she wanted to do something with an illustrated, fun feel that was colorful and vibrate, while being modern and classic at the same time. Lindsay also suggested that we do the logo in green and white, as she felt this would best represent her brand. This established a style starting point, and gave me enough to start designing.
The next step in my design process is to sketch out some rough ideas before getting on the computer and illustrating. For me, sketching is essential because it creates a rough idea, rather then a somewhat finished and polished design. This allows me to focus on different concepts that can be utilized for creating a brand.
For Lindsay’s logo, I tried several different concepts during the sketching phase of the design. Some of the first concepts were kitchen utensils and items found in the kitchen like a stove burner. I then tried a few sketches using Lindsay’s initials to create an icon. I sent Lindsay a few of these rough sketches with detailed branding ideaology that would go with each sketch. She liked the idea of the kitchen utensils, but didn’t feel that the utensils in the sketches were the best for her brand. Below is the email with her feedback
“The image of an egg cup (I know a bit random), came to mind while I was on walk a while back. That image keeps coming to mind, so wondering if I should use it? I am enjoying the idea of an egg as a symbol of nourishment (covers the nutrition bit), and the eggcup egg as a symbol of nostalgia (for me it was something special my Mom made for me, so this covers the whole homecooking/chef bit). Plus I think if done right it could look vintage and classy.”
And so the eggcup icon was born. A kitchen item that represents nutrition and simplicity was a great icon for Lindsay’s branding goals.
Design Presentation and Selection
In my design process, I give my clients multiple options with multiple variations to ensure that they are getting exactly what they had hoped to receive at the beginning of the project. By the time I begin designing, a clear style, direction, and branding concept have been established to ensure that my time and the clients time is well spent when it comes to choosing the right logo.
Lindsay requested that the logo be green and white and feature the egg cup concept. I sent her 3 initial designs (2 are shown above, one was the final design). Each design showed different font examples and color options. In addition to the egg cup concept in green, I also sent her an option with a whisk icon in a similar illustration style and did color variants in teal and yellow.
After the first round of designs, Lindsay selected one of the logo options and requested a variation of the egg cup concept in a hand drawn sketch style. She also liked her name in a sans serif font option, with her title in a serif font spaced out underneath her name.
Ultimately, the final logo selected featured the original illustration style established by the Vision Board with a teal blue color (as shown at the beginning of the post).
The final step for this project was to implement the new logo to create new business cards for Lindsay. I sent Lindsay two design options to choose from, and she decided on the design shown above. The design is very simple and classic, to highlight the logo and clearly establish Lindsay’s brand.
Now the the logo is final, and the business cards have been printed, I will be helping Lindsay to bring her new brand identity to all of her business materials and her website/blog. At the beginning of the design process, Lindsay requested that her blog have a seperate identity that corresponses to her business identity. Fridgeandtunnel.com will soon feature a site header and the new logo to bring Lindsay’s business identity full circle.
Shortly after Lindsay and I wrapped this project, she sent me her feedback:
“Laura was able to turn my design vision into a fantastic logo and provided me with precisely what I asked for. I highly recommend her work.”
Thank you, Lindsay! You were a joy to work with!
By Laura M
Make Your Projects Work for You: 5 Project Management Methods
On 30, Jul 2009 | 3 Comments | In Blog, Uncategorized | By Laura M
Project Management is key skill to creative’s and non creative’s alike. The more efficient you are, the happier you and your clients will be. Here are some methods that I use in my work that have really helped on both large projects and when multi-tasking on several small projects. These methods also make it easier to back track when you need to look through your notes for important information.
The Classic Project Triangle
I am sure most people reading this have heard of the Project Triangle (pictured), but it really is a very important tool in project management. The philosophy is that only two items on the triangle can exist at once. If it’s going to be cheap and fast, it won’t be good. If it’s going to be fast and good, it won’t be cheap.
Using this philosophy can make discussing projects with your clients much easier. If you present this ideal to your clients before a project begins, you are making them aware of limitations without overwhelming them with details. Let them know their options. If they need something in a day, it will either be poor quality, or it will be expensive. If clients understand this philosophy, it will not only help establish expectations early on, but it will keep everyone happy in the process.
The Behance Priority Timeline
Prioritization is always a challenge. At times, every project seems to be urgent and every client thinks that they are the most important. However, when you find yourself having a consistent flow of urgent projects, eventually, you will find that your work starts to suffer. Creating good work in a flash usually means losing sleep or working extended hours. Creating your best work in a sleep deprived and overworked state is a challenge, if not impossible.
So how do you bring sanity to an environment full of top priority requests? Visualize it. Find a space on a wall to make a visual timeline (like the one pictured). Make an area for urgent, high priority, medium priority and low priority on your time line. Next, make a note card to represent each of your projects. Finally, place the note cards within the timeline. Chances are, once you have them all on the wall, that your timeline will probably appear little top heavy. Now, it’s time to audit your urgent and high priority projects. Logically, the majority of your projects should not be listed in this area of the timeline. Some of these projects can be bumped down medium or low priority. Evaluate the projects and determine what has to be done, and what can wait. Sometimes, it takes a visual to bring order to the chaos.
To learn more about the Priority Timeline, visit Behance.com
The Circle To Do System
My colleague and good friend Christian Pascual recently sent me a link to the Font.is blog with the “Circle To Do List” system. It has changed the way I keep notes on projects in the best way possible.
The idea is to keep a journal listing all of your projects (which I was doing previously). What’s different about this method is that you put a hollow circle at the start of each task. As you make progress on the project, you fill in the circle at each step in the progress (see image for reference). You can customize what to fill in your circles as you see fit. For instance, I don’t have a need to show when a project is done “Halfway” like in the legend. So, a half circle in my system means that the project was approved or that it was sent to the printer. I also added a circle with a $ symbol to the right to indicate when a payment needs to be made to the vendor.
Harvest’s tagline explains it all – “Time is money, so be sure you track it!” Harvest allows to track your hours on projects, create invoices, bill clients and is PayPal integrated, so clients have the option to pay via PayPal online. They will soon be offering the ability to send and track estimates.
For all the Mac’s out there, Harvest is available on the iPhone or as a Dashboard widget that allows to start and stop your time on project’s as you work on them from your desktop. Harvest starts at $12 per month for solo freelancers, and is well worth the price. You can even export you data into Excel spreadsheets.
This application has really helped me make billing and invoicing much easier to manage. You can set up the invoices to generate themselves and to be sent on specific dates and set up reminders if a client is slow on payment. It’s like hitting an autopilot button for billing so that you can worry about your work more, and less about invoicing. It also looks professional, and is a green way to do your invoicing, by eliminating the need to send anything in the mail.
The Goal Chart Initiative
Remember back in elementary school when you would do a fundraiser and the teacher would put a chart on the wall that could be filled in as you raise money and everyone could see who was getting the most cash for the school? Filling in that chart with a big fat felt marker just gave you a reason to stick your chest out and hang your head high for the rest of the day. Until that kid who always won everything came in behind you and rose the bar yet again. Ah, good times.
In my last position with B2B Web Ventures, our fearless leader Duane Badenhorst brought that sense of competition and ownership right into the workplace. We had a massive project that had seemingly endless lists of to-dos. Everyone was feeling the pressure and no one had a sense that the end of the project would be obtainable in the amount of time we were given. The solution? Duane made charts of all the small parts of the projects. He made a block for each piece of each project (i.e. if there are 25 category banners on the site, there would be 25 blocks under the title “Category Banners”). Each group picked a color of marker and as they completed the task, they filled in the blocks. Slowing but surely, the wall of projects started being filled with color. You could see where each team contributed and you could be proud of the blocks you filled in.
The big idea with this initiative was that it made an end to a massive project seem achievable, and it created accountability. If the design team was filling in a lot of red blocks, the copywriters felt motivated to fill in more green blocks. In short, it made the project more fun, and created a stronger bond between the different teams working together on the same goal.
What project management methods have you discovered work for you?
By Laura M
Who, What, & Why at the HOW Design Conference
On 06, Jul 2009 | 6 Comments | In Blog, Events | By Laura M
Austin, Texas – June 24 – 28, 2009 – The HOW design conference was action packed! I am still recovering from all the activity and information that was jammed into a 4 day conference. I have sorted through my notes and have compiled a quick set of resources and tips from the conference.
This is Business, Don’t Make it Personal
In the graphic design game, it is important to remember that you are different from an artist. An artist creates and hopes to make a sale. Designers, on the other hand, have a client from the get go. You have to share your clients goal. If you don’t share your clients vision, the project will suffer, and in turn, so will your business.
With that in mind, it is also important to cover your assets when starting a business. Get in touch with a lawyer and an accountant to find out about the law in your state and how to get small business tax breaks. Make sure that you are setting yourself up for success by preparing yourself for failure. Just because your business gets into legal trouble doesn’t mean you have to lose everything.
The key to obtaining clients and growing a graphic design business is to accentuate what makes you different. If you can become a resource, or even be viewed as an expert in the field, this is icing on the cake. If you have an expertise, or offer multiple services, make sure your clients and prospects know. Leave behinds are also a great way to shine and show off your creativity. Anything extra you do for your clients that takes time and effort will stand out.
To learn more about the business of running a graphic design studio, check out graphicdefine.org
Where Are Your Priorities?
It is hard to loss focus of the big picture when you are busy at the task at hand. It is also hard to see the right path to the end of a project when you are drowning in “top priority” items. The solution? Effective prioritization. Determine what has to be done same day, and what could wait. Make a list of your “action items” and determine what can be put on the “back burner”. Make a visual representation of your priority levels and place your jobs within the visual. Chances are, you have more items as “highest priority” then you really need. If you are always rushing to finish these rush items, then your work and your mental state will eventually suffer.
Also, make time for your bigger goals. Set time aside everyday to think about what your long term goals are and what steps you need to be taking to acheive those goals. Even if you only have 30 minutes a day, any time you set aside will make better off then if you keep working on the task at hand with no regard for the bigger picture.
Learn more about the about the Action Method at Behance.com
Consider Your Audience
One very important point made in the conference sessions was the lack of consideration for those with disabilities when executing a design. 1 of every 20 people have trouble visualizing colors. There is a site called vischeck.com that can help you determine whether your designs will be seen by those with color blindness. The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) also offers design guidelines and best practices.
Know Who You’re Dealing With
Our world is getting smaller, and international business is more and more common place. However, it is important to remember that not all country’s employ the same environmental and humanitarian regulations as are in place here in the states. It is important to know what kind of facilities and practices your vendors have in place, even if they are on the other side of the world. Would you really want to save a buck at the cost of another person’s well being?
Functional and Fashionable
It is important to understand a problem to effectively create a solution. In design, if the concept is not functional, then it will probably not reach the goal it was meant to acheive. A good designer can make something aesthically appealing. A great design can make something appealing and make it easy for the viewer of your design to get the message.
The best thing I took from this conference was the friendship’s I made (totally cheesy, but very true). I met Kristen Ley, owner of Cultigraphic Creative in Charleston, SC during the networking lunch. We instantly bonded, and had a great time at the conference together. She is immensely talented and has succeed in launching her own business. Her attitude and her work both inspire me to push myself to be better and brighter!
Kristen and I met Larry Pelty, my other conference buddy, while having a quick bite to eat at Moonshine (yummy restaurant across from the Convention Center). Larry is the Creative Director for Smith and Associates in Houston, TX. He and I have had a very similar path in our creative journey and I think we both learned a lot from each other during the intense four days of sessions. Larry is extremely intelligent and I can definitely see him be a key resource for web design work for years to come.
I would love to hear additional comments from others who attended the conference. What did you take from your sessions?
By Laura M
Highlights from the DSVC Dallas Show 2009
On 10, Jun 2009 | 3 Comments | In Blog, Events | By Laura M
This past Saturday was the Dallas Society of Visual Communications 2009 Dallas Show; an award show for the design community. It was a wonderful event, full of amazing talent, good food, and lots of intriguing people.
The show was held at the Dallas Women’s Museum in Fair Park in Dallas. As we entered the museum, which was adorned with colorful lanterns to go with the Asian theme, you could feel the positive vibes. Very fung shui. Sushi, fried rice and green tea ice cream floats were served and enjoyed! Upon our arrival, we immediately grabbed a drink and made a b-line for the stairs to go and see all the work submitted for the show.
Overall, the work was very impressive. Dallas has a lot to be proud of. One of my favorites from the show were a series of posters submitted by Sullivan Perkins for the Kitchen Dog Theater in Dallas, TX. The poster (shown at the right), is for the play Jihad Jones and the Kalashnikov Babes which is running May 29th – June 27th. If you have never been to the Kitchen Dog theater, it is an amazing space. When you enter, there is an art studio space where local artist will have work on display for you to enjoy before the show. A place where the visual arts and performing arts come together in harmony. In my opinion. these posters really capture the energy of their organization very well, in addition to being inventive and eye catching. The poster series was awarded two awards for Poster Design.
As we continued to move through the show, I was especially intrigued by the range of photographers. One that immediately caught my eye was from James Russell and Ann Rutherford (shown above). When I initially looked at their display, I thought the images were from different photographers. Each told a different story, and drew you in to want to know more about the subjects. Russell+Rutherford won an Editorial Award for their photography series titled “Boxers” (not shown).
After viewing all the work upstairs, we came back downstairs to mingle. We met a immensely talented couple from Tulsa, OK – Jerilyn Arthur, with Walsh Branding, and Scott Raffe, with Raffe Photography. Together, they created a wonderful series of poster featuring photography from the Zoppe Italian Style circus. Raffe’s work, entitled “Circus-New Work,” is currently on display at the Tulsa Performing Arts Center from June 2-26, 2009. He sent me the image to the left as his “image of the month” for June. Jerilyn and Scott were awarded the Bronze Bulb for the “Circus Flora Poster Campaign” at the show.
Another stand out from the award show was Jeff Barfoot with Barfoot Worldwide. Jeff is a former president of the DSVC, and one of the most talented designers I have seen to date. He won judge’s choice for his piece entitled “Keep Things We Like From Going Away” (picture provided by Jeff). This piece was another one of my favorites. I really dig Jeff’s playful yet modern illustration style. In all honesty, I feel lucky that Jeff is from the Dallas area and I have had the opportunity to meet him. He is truly an amazing talent and a noteworthy trendsetter in the design community.
At the end of the evening, when the crowd broke, and the work came down, we met the lady who brought the show together – Rhonda Camp Warren of Color Box Design. Rhonda’s husband engineered the hangings for the paper lanterns, and Rhonda created the theme and design for the show. Business is booming for Rhonda and Color Box Design. She is planning to purchase the house across the street from her home to expand her freelance business in the White Rock area.
To close, I would like to thank everyone who keeps the DSVC going. It is an amazing organization that I am proud to be a member of. I cannot wait for September when we start all over again!
By Laura M
The Path to Creativity: 4 Ideas that will Give You a Jump Start
On 03, Jun 2009 | One Comment | In Blog, Design, Uncategorized | By Laura M
The creative process is something that can become both illusive and overwhelming. It can seem like creativity comes out of nowhere. However, there is a path to creativity. Creative professionals have numerous methods for finding inspiration.
I have compiled four paths to creativity from my research and experience as a designer. Inspiration is out there. Here are some ways you can find it:
1. Think Outside the Box
One school of thought came recently from an amazing book I would recommend to anyone (no matter what your path in life) called The Creative Habit: Learn It and Use It For Life, by acclaimed choreographer Twyla Tharp. In the chapter “Before You Can Think out of the Box, You Have to Start with a Box”, the idea is that any big idea involves several little ideas. You have to do your homework in order to compile all those little ideas and arrange them in a way that is new and fresh. The little ideas are basic things: research your audience, build a design file, collect images, select a marketing outlet. The better your preparation ahead of time, the better the big idea will be at the end.
The recent example of this kind of creativity is the Toyota Prius. In 2000, when the Prius was first launched, the SUV was king in America. American automakers did not see the need to develop the technology for an “eco-friendly” car. GM’s vice chairman of product development Bob Lutz was quoted as late as 2004 that the Prius was, “an interesting curiosity,” adding that they didn’t make sense with gas at $1.50 a gallon.
Toyota was a pioneer for the first time in its history as an automaker. The Prius was almost instantly on back order when it first arrived in America (back orders are anticipated for the most recently launched Prius Generation 3 this year). Toyota followed the steps. They researched, developed, and did their leg work to create something that people didn’t even know they needed or wanted. They combined all the little ideas in a way that the end product was not only successful, but something completely new to the marketplace.
2. Learn from Your Mistakes
Everyone experiences failure. But without failure, you may never learn what the right way for you to do something would be. It is improbable that you will come up with anything original when you do what is expected, or when you already know the outcome. The best way to be creative is to not fear failure.
When I am brainstorming on a project with a group, there is almost always the initial “silent, but thinking” moment. To break this silence, I encourage everyone to say whatever pops into their head out loud. Even if it’s embarrassing or sounds stupid in your head, just say it. You may have a horrible idea, but write it down. Look at it. Dwell on it. Write more bad ideas. You can still learn from those ideas on the way to finding a good one.
3. Understand Your Audience
Social science and creativity go hand in hand. If you don’t have a general understanding of people and how their brains work, you will not be able to reach them; no matter how creative you are. I recently attended the Big (D)esign Conference, where speaker Stephen P. Anderson spoke about “The Art and Science of Seductive Interactions.” During his speech, Stephen requested that everyone in the audience think of something that describes people – in a general sense. People are curious, they enjoy novelty, they like to be in control, but they also like to be guided, etc. What do you know about people that would help you know what can you do to motivate them? What would make them intrigued? What would make them want more? Understanding people in a psychological sense can guide you in your creative process.
4. Be Open to Inspiration
At times, creative blocks happen because you are too consumed with the task at hand. You are so focused on getting an idea, that you are not allowing yourself to be open to inspiration. What’s the solution? Give your brain a breather. Do something monotonous that will give you room to receive inspiration. Get up and clean your work area. Take a walk and take pictures of things that interest you along the way. Clear you head by listening to your favorite music. Get lost in some activity that allows you to be a receiver, not an implementer. Inspiration is everywhere…you just have to find a way that works for you to be able to receive the information.