7 Freelancing Tips You Need To Read Before You Give Notice

Arianna Orland’s innate curiosity has gotten her far in her career. Never satisfied with the status quo, she continually uses both inquiry and hustle to propel herself to grow and acquire the necessary skills to be successful. She refers to this process as “reinvention.”

Arianna has worked for several companies as a designer in many different capacities over in the past 15+ years—either as a full-time employee or consultant, and what she learned in the process is that she likes the independence and freedom associated with working for herself, because it keeps her perspective sharp and allows her to create across the breadth of her expertise. All of this freedom is not without its challenges. Arianna acknowledges “As a freelancer, you’re your only advocate. You have to understand what your time is worth and how to negotiate the best fees to maintain your business, no one else will do this for you but you.”

After leaving her last full-time job a year ago as Senior Director Creative of Global Brand at Zynga, she now runs her own consulting business, working with startups and Fortune 500 companies on creative direction, brand strategy, and user experience. Of course, never satisfied with just doing one thing, she also is the founder and proprietress behind Paper Jam Press, a letterpress poster and apparel business she founded in 2009.

“You know that expression if you really love something, it doesn’t feel like work? Paper Jam Press never feels like work to me. It feels like a source of inspiration, teaches me things all the time, and consistently reminds me why making things with our hands for other people to enjoy is the most magical thing we as designers can do.” she says.

Reinvention isn’t easy, especially when it comes to freelancing. Here, Arianna shares some advice for those adventurous souls looking to make the move from full-time employment to being self-employed.

  1. Make sure you’re financially prepared to do it. I don’t think flipping a switch is the right way to go about it. Have three months worth of salary in the bank and be prepared for feast and famine. Freelancing can be a financial hardship if you’re looking at your business in a short term way. You have to have the stomach for it and understand it’s a long-term play, but it’s a wonderful way to reinvent yourself and find the kind of projects that you want and stretch your skills and abilities.
  2. You have to tell people that you’re doing it. Tell everyone you know—family, friends, all your old co-workers. You’ve made wonderful relationships with these people and hopefully these people will think of you when they need your services. You never know where work will come from. LinkedIn is a good place to state what your intentions are. If you’re seeking new opportunities, it’s great to state that there.
  3. I love making coffee dates with former colleagues and hearing what’s going on with them personally and at their jobs. Oftentimes it can lead to an opportunity. Being an extrovert and being social is a big part of staying top of mind for potential collaborators.
  4. If you’re passionate about something or want to break into a new market, just do it. We get so hung up on our billable time that it prevents us from doing different things. For instance, I started Paper Jam Press as a way to take a break from client work. I wanted a project where I could be in total control of the creative output and where I could make a tangible object. It started as a way to nurture my creativity and from there it became a business. “
  5. Take a class. Personal and professional growth are important to stay fresh and motivated.
  6. You have to have a diverse skill set and sometimes be a marketer and sometimes do things that aren’t necessarily your expertise. You have to be able to write a proposal, even if you don’t think of yourself as a good writer. Consult with other freelancers about their rates and clients. People are willing to share this information if you ask.
  7. You really have to tolerate ambiguity. I’ve had two week projects turn into six month projects, and I’ve had moments where I’ve gotten really comfortable with what I thought was a long-term consulting gig, only to have it disappear. You have to be able to deal with the ups and downs.

This article was originally published on Creative Live in January 2015, but the information is as relevant as ever!

LogoLounge Trends

I co-authored/edited this piece with Bill Gardner for LogoLounge.com, and it was picked up by Fast Company! It’s written in first-person, by Bill.

Each year, I write a report on logo trends, and I always look to the past before looking ahead. You can’t tell where something is going if you don’t know where it has been. There’s always a reason something goes viral or takes off—something set it in motion, good or bad. So let’s start by addressing the white elephant on the planet: COVID-19.

Crises often accelerate trends in society and design. It’s very reactive and rushed; if there were a 10-step program that we typically follow to get from point A to point B, we skipped steps six through nine to get there during a crisis. Next year, we’re probably going to see a lot of logos that emerged as a result—some will be brilliant, many more probably won’t be. No matter what, I believe the design industry is going to come out of this better than we were. Some firms will not recover. It’s going to be survival of the fittest. Having said that, we’ll see an emergence of little startups and uncover some talent we’ve never seen before. People will regroup, find their niche, and come out of this with a new resilience. This is a shared generational experience that we’ll never forget and hopefully we’ll all learn from. Next year’s batch of logos will surely reflect this.

Read the rest of the article here.

Sustainable Packaging Options

So many eco-friendly packages are reminiscent of brown paper sacks—boring, colorless, no personality. The materials, themselves, can be difficult to navigate from a design perspective to make them more palatable, and avoid the use of harmful glues, inks, and bindings. Here, four firms have successfully navigated the eco terrain to come up with tactile and beautiful design solutions that meet the strict recycling, reusable, or biodegradable packaging standards.

Client: Dutch Harvest Hemp Tea

Design: Tenzing

Illustrator: Walther Otto Müller

When the actual product is eco-friendly by nature (“tea with a mission”), it’s natural that the branding and packaging must walk the walk and follow suit. Designer Arjan van Woensel says, “Esther Molenwijk, the owner of Dutch Harvest, is someone who clearly sees the value of the entire hemp plant and took up this project to showcase the multiple uses of this amazing crop. The design needed to reflect the eco-cred of the product, but—and this was a big but—without becoming too weirdy-beardy.” And by “weirdy-beardy” he means the stereotypical earth-friendly (ie tree hugger) references. It also needed to stand out on the tea shelf in retail outlets, which is a challenge in itself with all the offerings available.

Since this company was started through a crowd-funding campaign, Molenwijk wanted to include customers in the design decision, so van Woensel mocked up four designs and asked supporters to vote on their favorite. “Esther loves collaboration and she wanted to include customers right from the start. Fortunately, they chose the design I would have chosen, although I liked them all,” he says. “We get so much positive feedback that we must have made the right decision.”

The design is colorful, yet retains an eco-friendly feel due to its materials, which was a challenge in and of itself. “It was very clear it needed to be 100% compostable, which was a bit hard because we wanted a window in the pouch. And all of the existing (eco) pouches available at the time had a petroleum-based lining,” he explains. So van Woensel and his client worked with two manufacturers (Bio4Pack and Paperwise) to create a unique, 100% biodegradable, lined pouch. “The lining and plastic window in the bag have been specially created for Dutch Harvest from cellulose-based plastic and the paper is made from agricultural waste,” he explains.

Pro Tip: Be prepared to go out of your way to find partners who can deliver exactly what you need when working with sustainable materials.

Client: Level Cannabis

Agency: Folklor

Designer: Claire Typaldos

Level hired designer Claire Typaldos to redesign its brand to convey the essence behind the science of cannabis without detracting casual customers. “What makes Level special is its high quality and the fact that it’s completely pesticide-free, additive-free, and has no solvents. We wanted to the branding to reflect this with a simple, organic design,” she says.

The packaging is made of recycled pulpboard, which is traditionally used for egg cartons. “We wanted to use it in a unique way—as high-end packaging that also doubles as a nice object the customer could keep. We liked the idea that the customer would think twice before throwing away the box,” Typaldos notes, although it was learning experience working with the factories molding the boxes. It took several prototyping phases to get the design just right.

The label cleverly incorporates the scientific elements for each product strain, using colors to distinguish them. She says, “They wanted to share as much information as possible so that the customer knows what’s going into their bodies. We used Akkurat for the modern and clean titles, and Courier for the more scientific, informational sections. There was a nice interplay between the two.” A deep, debossed logo takes center stage on the box, highlighting the natural quality of the pulpboard.

Pro Tip: Be sure to budget in time and money to test different printing and design techniques.

Client: Poopbags

Design: Tondo

Picking up after your pooch is a rite of passage for dog owners—albeit, one of the less enjoyable aspects—so why not use a product you feel good about? Poopbags is dedicated to using eco-friendly materials in their packaging and product and having a sense of humor about it. “With a name like Poopbags, you can’t take yourself too seriously,” says Tondo’s creative director and designer Max Ali. Tondo was hired to redesign the brand to give it consistent presence in the market and stand out in a category that is dull by nature.

“If you want the design to be both eco-friendly and appealing, you have to be smart,” he says. “Each small element should carry a meaning and convey a message, but also keep in mind that the package should be fun and eye catching on shelf.” The flower logo signifies sprouting life and the outdoors, and stamps were designed as an easily recognizable brand element that can be modified to carry different messages. “The box itself is made of recycled materials, and our main concern was to be able to separate the types of products with minimum design elements,” Ali says.

Colors clearly distinguish the different products by how they are produced—Green is recycled; Orange is for orange-scented; Purple is biodegradable; and Blue is plant based. All the packages are also made with recycled materials.

Pro Tip: Just because you’re branding an eco-friendly product, doesn’t mean the design needs to be dull. Maximize the use of colors to stand out on the shelf.

Client: Hippo&Crate

Design: Alphabet

Ordering personal hygiene products such as soaps, lotions, and shaving kits, has become increasingly popular in recent years. Hippo&Crate is the first subscription-based toothcare brand. The name itself is borrowed from Greek physician Hippocrates, who was considered one of the most outstanding figures in the history of healthcare, and as a nod to the crate-like boxes that arrive at customers’ doors.

“In response to an industry that tends to overwhelm consumers with specs and jargon, we crafted a unique visual language to establish Hippo&Crate as a brand that stands for beautiful, honest, and affordable toothcare,” notes Alphabet partner and creative director Abbas Mushtaq. And, of course, the products are sustainable, as well as the packaging. The toothpaste and mouthwash are vegan, gluten-free, sustainably harvested, and toothpaste tube is made of 100 percent recyclable aluminum and printed using environmentally friendly ink.

The designers suggested the packaging be inline with the products since so many of them will be shipped around the world. “We didn’t want it to be harmful to the environment, and personally, we just love cardboard engineering!” He adds, “You have to be wary about the application of ink and how color looks on the packaging—especially stuff in the CMYK range. In the end we opted for simple hits of black and white to make sure it contrasts well. You also need to be careful with smaller type because of ink bleeding on recyclable material. It was a blessing in disguise as we ended up going for a simple, bold approach to help with that.

Pro Tip: Using two colors and simple imagery can actually elevate the design. Simplicity doesn’t have to be simple.

Finding Your Way: Designing Functional & Beautiful Maps

Graphic design is all about solving problems and making things functional and easy to understand, and wayfinding materials such as signs and maps aren’t the exception. In fact, they’re the rule. If the information is wrong or misunderstood, there can be deadly consequences. But not all maps are life and death. Some can be really fun while providing factual information, such as maps for parks, playgrounds, museums, and more.

One company that knows how to put the fun in mapmaking is Visual Maps based in Copenhagen, Denmark. They’ve designed colorful, richly detailed maps for parks all over the globe for the past 20 years. “It started with an illustration for a DUPLO universe on a LEGO package I did, which was spotted in Legoland, which then commissioned me to do their park map,” explains founder and creative director Mads Berg. Since then, they’ve designed all the Legoland parks worldwide, and have specialized in park maps since.

Here are five tips for creating successful map designs.

  1. Combine fact with fiction for emphasis

Designing wayfinding maps for parks isn’t so much scientific as it is illustrative. Sure, you need to help visitors find their way around the park, but it’s much more loose and playful than a city map. “There’s a mixture of reality and fantasy in each design,” he notes. “Google does the reality thing beyond compare. We love to do the fantasy part.” Of course, they do this without overriding the wayfinding purpose.

  1. Visit the park to get perspective

Although Google Maps is a great resource, Berg always starts projects by visiting the actual park, “not only to see the facilities, but also to experience the park as a visitor and know the points of navigation and get a first-person point of view.” Make note of the biggest attractions and their popularity. Often, these are points of interest that draw visitors to the park in the first place, so capitalize on them in your design by making them prominent.

  1. Sketch it out

When he’s back in the studio he does a pencil sketch to get the point of view right and define the composition. “Then we do a digital disposition map, where we take all facilities/rides/buildings individual height/volume in to account, and lay it all out,” Berg says, adding, “It remains a nice challenge to detangle the pathways, and to distribute everything, keeping the pathways correct, but at the same time focusing on and exaggerating individual features.” The biggest challenge is capturing all the landmarks and details in miniature, while still making them easily identifiable, as well as capturing the topography. In a zoo, for instance, different animals require different habitats, like water or vegetation, so be sure to visually represent them where applicable.

  1. Use Color as a differentiator

Color is a major factor in map design, not only to represent actual points of interest, but to use as identifiers. For instance, use a color key to identify things such as restaurants, gift shops, restrooms, exits, etc., for quick reference. Berg says of his maps, “Each park has its own colorways and atmosphere.” Be sure to capitalize on this as part of the overall brand strategy.

  1. Keep it real and keep it fun

He admits that he likes balancing the realistic demands of accuracy and wayfinding with the aesthetics, by exaggerating details and colors to create intrigue and beauty. “I especially like Tivoli Gardens and Liseberg because of this equal balance between aesthetics and navigation service. They both have poster qualities as well as being a good guide.” Use icons and buttons to help identify and locate points of interest. It can be frustrating for a visitor, if the map shows one thing and in reality, it’s completely different.

The tips above can be adapted for any kind of map project, just be sure to capture the fantastic qualities that draw visitors and help them get around the park, museum, school, or city safely.

Enticing Menu Designs

Beyond offering a selection of food and beverage items, a good menu design is an extension of the restaurant’s identity, it’s well organized and easy to read, and hopefully it’s appetizing. Here, we offer up several menu designs with decidedly different ethnic and cultural offerings.

Köksbordet is a family-style restaurant serving locally produced foods in a friendly, relaxed atmosphere. Designer Björn Berglund, who’s known for his hand-lettering, was tasked with creating the identity. Köksbordet literally means “kitchen table,” so he intentionally made the o’s look like a round table, and the wavy baseline for the word indicates the restaurant’s close proximity to the sea.

Once the logo was determined, Berglund focused on a color palette derived from the natural ingredients served at the restaurant, and he worked with illustrator Fanny Schultz, who drew the imagery. “I love to collaborate on larger projects, if you find the right partner. The overall quality is so much better,” he says. The illustrations are used on the menus, business cards, and on the website.

“The menu basically follows the rest of the identity – but it´s important for me that it´s easy to navigate and that it makes you hungry and ready to order,” Berglund explains. He designed a simple template so the owners could easily update the menu offerings each day, and could be printed on a basic printer.

Common Bowlery, San Pedro, Mexico

Design: La Tortilleria

Common Bowlery invites patrons to select ingredients and create their own bowl of goodness. The menu features an array of fruits, vegetables and legumes to let customers mix and match according to their tastes. La Tortilleria created a complete identity system for the restaurant, starting with a name that fit the offerings, and then devised a unique logo that incorporates a custom hand-written style for the word Common, and a robust sans serif typeface for Bowlery.

Zita Arcq, cofounder of La Tortilleria, says, “When we created the brand colors, we knew from the start that we didn’t want to use the typical broccoli-green hues so overused in health-centered restaurants. Instead, we developed a color scheme inspired by lemons and mint. This harmonious blend proved to be a winning combination and was used on every communication application, and on the interior decoration, including the menu.”

Counter Reformation, Palm Springs, California

Design: Roberto de Vicq de Cumptich

This wine bar/restaurant is located within the swanky Parker Hotel, which also houses two other two other restaurants. “When the owner was throwing out ideas for the name, he came up with Counter Reformation, and we started working with the idea of tongue and cheek religious themes,” explains designer Roberto de Vicq de Cumptich, who is well known for his restaurant identities around the world. “Palm Springs is a unique place with a very liberal demographic that appreciates the antics of the branding.”

And the branding plays heavy on humor. For instance, the coaster imitates a holy wafer, the check is presented in an old hollowed out hymnal, and there are murals by the entrance depicting praying hands holding a liquor bottle. De Cumptich went so far as to recreate actual characters from old medieval manuscripts for the menus to create a masterful arrangement, sure to elicit a chuckle or two from customers.

El Vez, Ft. Lauderdale, Florida

Roberto de Vicq de Cumptich

El Vez is a Mexican restaurant with locations in New York City and Philadelphia. With the opening of its third establishment in Ft. Lauderdale, Fla., the owners worked with de Cumptich to establish the identity. “The owners like to mix the spirit of the city with Mexican culture and folklore, which is why each restaurant has a different theme. Ft Lauderdale is a tourist beach destination, with a big spring break contingency, so we wanted to convey the hedonism of sun-filled beaches that is part of the locale,” he explains.

“When you design a series of menus, they have to be identifiable at a glance and have a general common theme to unify them. ‘Day of the Dead’ themes are a bit cliché, and often expected in a Mexican restaurant, but on closer inspection you see what the skeletons are doing with each other, and it makes you smile and laugh,” de Cumptich notes. “We want customers to be part of the joke and laugh with us.”

Each menu features a different position—and he admits he had to tone down some of the depictions. The illustrations are paired with a geometric mosaic and printed in a warm or cool gradient to resemble popular printing techniques found in Mexico.

 

Where are they now?

This article was originally published on the HOW magazine website in January 2018. HOW has since ceased publication.

In the early ’90s, the graphic design landscape was undergoing a dramatic shift. Desktop publishing was in its infancy and everyone was making it up as they went along—some better than others—while trying to keep up with the new technology and software. Then in 2000, the dotcom bubble burst, and in 2008 the worst recession since the Great Depression hit. Many studios weathered the storm, while others simply closed shop.

Here, we talk with the survivors of the past few decades, many of whom have reimagined their careers, and in some cases, started new vocations altogether. (Poster design by Modern Dog.)

Cahan & Associates, 1984 – 2009

Bill Cahan, San Francisco

Remember when “annual reports” was an actual category in design competitions? No? Well, I do, and Cahan & Associates always earned top honors and swept the category. Bill Cahan and his designers changed the game when it came to designing the dreadful annual report. But, in 2009, Cahan closed shop after a near-death illness. As he says, “After 25 years of working like a maniac, I saw the illness and the economy crashing as a sign from the universe to change my life. I let go of everyone in my company and gave all the work we had to two associates, who started their own firm, with the caveat that they rehire everyone.”

He took a year off to reassess his life and get healthy, and in the process ended up meeting his future wife, and eventually having a son with her in 2011. Cahan also co-founded a nonprofit called NARPP, to help advocate for individual savers by creating a universal savings plan to help people get access to a 401k plan.

“The changes over the last 20 years have inspired me to shift my priorities. It started with a thought of how can we harness the power of design to solve big social challenges that can impact people’s lives in meaningful ways? And that lead to me working with an interdisciplinary team of experts in communication theory, behavioral finance, and choice architecture who collectively have a deep understanding of the behavioral and cognitive barriers to people making decisions in their best interests,” he explains. “I have seen the impact of this kind of work, and believe this shift could be a requirement for more effective design in the 21st century.”

And Cahan adds, “On a personal note, when I am not working, I am with my family. Being a stay at home dad and husband has been humbling and challenging in the best of ways—I am learning to listen more and talk less.”

AdamsMorioka, 1994 to 2014

Sean Adams, Noreen Morioka, Los Angeles

“In 1994, when we started AdamsMorioka, our goal was to clean up the world, make design accessible, and focus on optimism,” notes Adams. And they did. Their work for Sundance, Nickelodeon, and Disney, to name a few, was bold and bright in a time when much of the design was going dark and goth. The duo was covered extensively in trade publications, they were traveling and speaking about their work, and winning design awards.

They were not only busy running their own successful agency, but selflessly supporting and serving their professions, with Adams serving more than two terms as the National AIGA president, and Morioka as AIGA Los Angeles president. Adams had also started teaching design at ArtCenter, and he fell in love with it. It was too much of a good thing and something had to give. Late in 2014, Adams and Morioka went their separate ways.

Adams is now Executive Director of the Graphic Design Graduate Program at ArtCenter, and he teaches online courses for Lynda.com/LinkedInLearning. Design education is his passion, and he sees so much potential in design thinking and how it can change the world. “I want designers to be the people in the room who see the big picture and challenge the status quo, not merely the person who can make a pretty logo. A software program or new technology can’t replace smart thinking and real innovation,” Adams notes. He also runs his studio, Burning Settlers Cabin and has written several books.

Morioka became a partner and creative strategist with her wife, Nicole Jacek at NJ(L.A.). But she has a very different perspective than when she was at AdamsMorioka. “There is a very obvious sexist perception about a women-owned company from clients and peers,” Morioka notes. “Nicole and I were surprised that most potential clients would expect a male team member to handle the financial and contract needs. Even more alarming was the perception that women creatives could only handle ‘boutique’ projects.” As a veteran designer, she had hoped that the industry had moved past this. “Not only do we need to be aware that our profession does this, but we need to stop pretending that it will eventually go away. Better yet, we need to give more opportunities to women so their successes can evolve and eliminate this sexist perception,” she says.

They recently left Los Angeles, and moved to Portland, Ore., to lead the design studio at Wieden+Kennedy. “Nicole and I never thought in a million years that we would leave the warm weather of L.A., but W+K team have their own unique way of turning up the heat with their talent and thinking.”

David Carson

Art Director, Ray Gun magazine 1992 – 1995

Manhattan Beach, Calif.

Carson became the poster boy for breaking the rules in graphic design for his misappropriation of type and images as art director of Ray Gun magazine in the early 90s. People either loved or hated it, which was just fine with Carson. He did what he wanted to do and picked up many design awards along the way. In 2014, he was awarded the AIGA Medal for his unique design signature and his influence on the next generation of designers. Carson is still doing design his way and staying close to the beach so he can surf when the tide is right.

Much of his work of late reflects his passion and respect for the ocean and its wildlife. He recently created posters for Kill the Fin Trade, whose mission is to ban the shark fin trade in Australia, and he’s designing a line of surfboards for Starboard. The trademark Carson influence is evident in his designs. You can see the thought process and deliberation in his work, and it’s something he doesn’t take for granted, although he thinks a lot of designers aren’t using their heads enough. “There’s a gentrification of design,” he says. “Software and computers continue to make designers lazy, letting the computer make decisions for them. This will only get worse as large scale projects are in beta testing right now, and that will eliminate a lot of current design jobs.”

Jennifer Sterling

Jennifer Sterling has worked on both coasts, designing for clients in a variety of industries including fashion, editorial, luxury goods, and high tech. She is known for weaving textural images and typography in interesting ways to create depth and discourse. Unfortunately, many thought she took it too far in the 2001 AIGA 365 Annual, and she experienced a profound backlash from her peers for the way she portrayed the images. “I cropped the images to show why a piece was lovely. All annuals had been, to this point, a cover and a spread which really showed you nothing,” she explains. “I wanted the end reader to see the remarkable use of tactile devices, if that was what was prevalent, or the lovely calligraphy, or the juxtaposition of photography. It was all to honor these designers, many of whom were my heroes.” Needless to say, she wasn’t prepared for the reaction she received. Today, this design would be praised for its ingenuity.

Since then, she has worked on many life-changing campaigns including branding for “Vital Voices,” a non-governmental organization to promote female ambassadorships founded by Hillary Clinton and Madeline Albright, and an online interactive piece for Yahoo to deliver the AIDs vaccine to third-world countries. Currently, Sterling is based in New York City, still experimenting with typography and seeing how far she can push it using technology. “While my firm has spanned two decades I have witnessed a great deal. The Internet eliminated a major constraint to accessing and sharing knowledge. Because it is in the hands of 3 billion people worldwide in the form of portable devices, it has also eliminated the need for a central or permanent location for creating and organizing information. This and the staggering advances in media compression has made innovation in all fields (not just design) quicker and easier to build on,” she says. “As far as challenges for the future the design arena has ultimately been responsible for one of two things: The product or the message. As AI (artificial intelligence) and VR (virtual reality) become more commonplace in society the questions and responsibilities of how and why will become more necessary, both as a consumer and as an innovator or citizen.”

Sayles Graphic Design 1985- 2008

John Sayles and Sheree Clark, Des Moines, Iowa

Sayles Design, 2009 – present

This Midwest firm grew fast and steady in the ’80s and ’90s. John Sayles had the creative chops, and Sheree Clark ran the business side, wrangling new clients and nurturing those relationships. As a team, they were unstoppable … until the economy crashed in 2008. “We found our clients downsizing. The contacts we had established over the years were being let go. It became apparent we had to re-establish our approach and our connections,” Sayles explains. “Sheree and I had to face that the business could no longer support the overhead of the business, which included seven employees.” They closed SGD. Clark shifted gears to pursue her new passion which revolved around nutrition and healthy eating. Sayles took time to “breathe and reset” before starting over as a one-man shop, J. Sayles Design.

In addition to his agency, in 2015 he started a vodka company called Swell. It’s now the second fastest growing Iowa Spirits company, due in large part to Sayle’s branding expertise. “This is what I have been doing for more than 25 years. I know how to market and promote a product without spending millions of dollars.”

Clark’s journey is quite different. She’s gone from running a design business, to helping people design better lives for themselves. “Fork in the Road [her business] is truly a crescendo of all my life experiences. I work with clients to problem-solve, and ultimately to transform their health, reclaim vitality and mental focus, and help ensure they gain clarity on their vision and purpose. These are all things I have done for myself over the course of the last six-plus decades of life.”

Oh Boy, 1994 – 2002

David Salanitro, San Francisco

Oh Boy Artifacts, 2001 – present

Oh Boy, founded by David Salanitro, was one of the hottest agencies in the late 90s producing elegant corporate communications and branding materials for companies like Mohawk Paper, Schwab, and West Coast Industries. In 2001, he launched Oh Boy Artifacts, a beautiful collection of high-end notebooks, journals, gift wrap and other fine paper products. These coveted items were an instant hit and designers couldn’t wait to get their hands on them. But, just as quickly as the Artifacts collection came on the scene, the agency was struggling. “Nearing the end of 2001, the recession came upon us, and the studio quite suddenly shed its clients,” Salanitro says. Artifacts carried the studio for a little while, but it wasn’t enough, so he closed shop and moved to the East Coast to continue the Artifacts collection.

He took some time off to reflect, read, and write. In the ensuing years, he returned to the West Coast and lectured at the Academy of Art University, then he moved to Chicago to work for Avenue as the executive creative director, and then ended up in his hometown, Fresno, Calif., where he currently resides. Lucky for us, he’s launching a new Artifacts collection in 2018 through Kickstarter.

“This time I see it differently, I see that it can be important,” he says, adding, “There is a certain beauty evident in a thing by the measure of care people invest in it. It’s a simple if/then equation: if we care enough about what we make, if we go all in and put the whole of our capacity into it and consider it in a larger context—the way something catches the light, the grain of its surface—then others too will pause and take notice. The consideration I give to a simple thing like a notebook, or our part in grander gestures that inspire people to forgo the paper sack and return to wrapping gifts, is evidence of that care that we pass along. I don’t want to sell paper, I want to bring back the sense of event to gift giving and encourage people to pause and grin and share a few extra moments of appreciation—of one another. … The ground is shifting. More people are trying to take better care. We are trying to craft our lives in ways that allow us to recognize beauty and smile. I’m in this for the grins.”

Modern Dog 1987 – present

Robynne Raye & Michael Strassburger, Seattle

Every designer in the ’90s envied Modern Dog, led by Robynne Raye and Michael Strassburger. They designed posters for local theater companies and musicians such as Liz Phair, The Pretenders, Better than Ezra, and The Roots, among others. They made it look so cool and easy. “I think at one time—in the ’90s— we were working for five different theaters in Seattle,” Raye recalls. “There’s a very small percentage of people that go to live theater, and it was weird for us, because we were trying to get the same people to the different theaters. We were essentially competing against ourselves in this genre, and we wondered why they didn’t just hire other designers. That was very strange.”

Things sailed smoothly through the early 2000s, as well. In fact, in 2007, the Louvre requested five Modern Dog posters for its permanent art collection. Raye and Strassburger couldn’t believe it! Then in 2011, everything changed. One of their designs was ripped off and repurposed on Disney merchandise sold at Target. The two decided to sue the big corporations for copyright infringement—perhaps against their better judgment. To pay their attorneys, they sold the Modern Dog building, let go of the few employees they had, and moved the business into Raye’s basement. Although they eventually won their case, it took three years and nearly bankrupted them. Modern Dog is now a part-time venture, with its principals taking on new roles.

“I do about 8 -12 projects a year,” Raye says. “Currently I’m rebranding a small hair salon, designing a poster, and conducting a workshop at Amazon. I divide my time between teaching at two Seattle Colleges—Cornish College of the Arts (Jan. 2000 to present) and Seattle Central College (April 2015 – Present)—and doing design work through Modern Dog.”

Since 2012, Strassburger has worked full time at the Seattle Aquarium. He is still technically Vice President of Modern Dog, though he is not involved in the day-to-day activities. He also has a new company called Living Fancy. “I’m not the young buck I used to be, and after decades as co-founder of Modern Dog helping design products for clients like Blue Q, I needed to settle things down a bit,” he explains. “The most natural evolution for me was to start my own line of products as Living Fancy. Now I am my own product developer, art director, and designer! I can’t help it. I just love doing this stuff.”

Trendspotting 2018: Editorial Design

Whether you’re designing for a print or online publication, many rules are the same with the goal being legibility. If users can’t read it or don’t understand the hierarchy, you’re going to lose them. Trends in editorial design have run the gamut from over-the-top imagery and graphics, to sparsely inhabited pages of floating type in a sea of white space. And what works for one publication doesn’t work for another, so it’s completely subjective.

Designers Xavier Schoebel and Amélie Lecocq have plenty of experience working in publication design in France for cultural institutions like the Louvre and Pompidou Center. Both teach graphic design—Xavier at LISAA, Institute of Applied Arts in Strasbourg, and Amelie at the Fine Arts of the University of Strasbourg. “Much of our work in editorial design revolves around cultural subjects, where we use illustrated charts and graphs to depict the information. For instance, what works for a children’s book, will not work in a fashion magazine,” Xavier explains.

Here, the duo, who also run their studio Collectif Ça va 2 Paire, share their predictions for five editorial design trends to watch for in 2018—many of which are tried and true.

  1. Typography: Mix it Up

The old type rules about using only two or three type styles in editorial design are no longer relevant. In fact, it’s fun to mix and fuse different fonts to create a particular mood. “We like the mix between old historic fonts and modern fonts, that are more flexible,” Amelie notes. “Creating contemporary typographic design sometimes means combining old and new to create a timeless vibe.”

  1. Color: Bright is Right

Bright, high contrasting colors can make the difference between a hum-drum layout and something that speaks to the masses. Xavier says, “Pairing a bright color with a pastel or gray tone, is a simple way to create depth and intrigue, similar to how vintage album covers were portrayed in the ’70s. There was a tendency to have bright illustrations or letters over less chromatic or black and white photos.” Oftentimes, the contrast contributed to the album’s narrative and intrigue.

  1. Images: Original vs. Stock

Stock photos are fine if you’re in a hurry or on a very tight budget, but original art is always best, and that’s a trend that’s never going to change—which is great for artists and photographers. Illustrators can take a story to a whole new level with their interpretation of the narrative. “It’s also fun to add headlines or drawings on top of photos—just be sure to get the photographer’s permission to do this if you’re not buying exclusive rights,” Amelie notes. “These graphic additions, can really add drama and perspective.” Of course, if you buy stock images, you don’t need permission to do that.

  1. Composition: Balancing text and images

Grids are always a starting point for any publication designer. Setting up the page, determining the width of columns, and how headlines will look on the page. “Oftentimes, designers will deconstruct a gird to create dynamism in a composition,” Xavier says. “For example, there is a tendency to use more space in the margins to put different types of information like a small photo that serves as a reference to the larger image found later in a publication.”

  1. Print vs. Online publications

We’ve been hearing it for years: “Print is dead.” Well, it’s not. Granted, the number of print publications has drastically dwindled in the last decade, but people—especially artists and designers—crave the tactile experience when it comes to flipping through a magazine or newspaper. “For us, digital editions can not replace print, but it’s a great complement,” Amelie notes. For instance, if you’re doing a limited print run, try using heavier sheets or different printing techniques, and then explain the process in the digital edition. Make them co-exist and work together.

Many of these trends aren’t new, but editorial design can be very experimental depending on your audience. As Xavier says, “It’s about finding a balance between different levels of text, photographs, and illustrations to create new visual conversations.”

Developing Successful Identities for a Mr. & Mrs.

If you’re an identity designer, the most critical function in the beginning of the project is research—getting to know your client’s brand inside and out, as well as the competition, and some of that involves what Sharon Werner, principal of Werner Design Werks in Minneapolis, Minn., calls “feet on the ground.” This is especially true when working on a start-up brand, like Mr. Mak’s Ginbao, a new wellness drink that is based on a traditional Chinese recipe made from natural ingredients.

Werner and her team spent the day in New York’s Chinatown with the Mak family, even enjoying a traditional Chinese lunch prepared by Mrs. Mak. “We walked the streets of New York and looked at brands they liked and disliked in the same category,” Werner explains. “When it’s a startup we want the identity and the brand to feel true to who they are, and the only way to do that is through an intensive immersion and getting to know them. We want to understand who they are compared to their competitors; what they’ll offer that others don’t; what their personal beliefs are and how those will translate to their business and product.”

A challenge with developing brand identities for start ups is determining what will work past the first year, which is sometimes hard for clients to envision. “We’re building for a future, which means we’re asking the ‘what if’ questions—What if you add more flavors? What if you add 100 employees? What if you sell the company?” she says. “We want to build an identity that can grow with them and is fluid enough to adapt if the ‘what if’ becomes ‘What do we do now?’”

Combining traditional aesthetics with modern design elements, helped differentiate Mr. Mak’s Ginbao. The packaging utilized colors associated with the flavors, while the corporate identity was limited to neon red and porcelain blue. The letterpress printed business cards come in a glassine envelope which also houses a nice surprise for recipients—a recipe card and fortune. These small touches, tie the identity back to the brand story.

Taking a critical look at the competition and how your brand measures up, is key in the identity design. Werner and her team go to the store see the competition live on the shelf, in the environment. They look at how the retail lighting might affect packaging and how the height of the product will look sitting next to others. “We are avid and intuitive consumers— we trust our intuition. We look outside the categories to see where to go next, keeping in mind that it still has to communicate what the product is,” she notes. “With Mrs. Meyer’s, we asked how we could we make it look like a hard-working, effective cleaning product, but different than its competitors. We borrowed from the utilitarian, hard-working, hardware vernacular and then softened it with color and line drawings.”

Werner developed the Mrs. Meyer’s brand story 18 years ago, and it has stood the test of time. The brand story revolves around the founder’s mother, Thelma Meyer, a homemaker from Granger, Iowa. The no-nonsense design reflects her personality and informs consumers of the natural ingredients in the cleaner. “With Mrs. Meyer’s we were involved for many years, hands on,” Werner says. “We helped them hire their first internal designer, then we later briefed their new ad agency on the brand. When they were purchased by SC Johnson, we conducted a full retrospective briefing of the Mrs. Meyer’s brand language and elements. We outlined what was brand right and not brand right and the reasoning behind that. Always bouncing decisions against ‘What would Thelma do?’”

The ultimate goal when creating an identity design for a company, is to make sure all the brand assets will be managed by the client after the project is complete. This usually entails creating a style guide to ensure the identity is properly applied in every application including packaging, advertising, website, social media, and beyond. “Our goal is to create a brand and brand assets that basically eliminates the need for Werner Design Werks. We develop a brand language that can evolve and grow and still be ‘brand right,’” Werner explains.

This post originally ran on the PixArt blog here.

 

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Michael Ian Kaye: How Design & Advertising Inform Eachother

You may be wondering what the hell this title means. It’s obvious that design and advertising comingle, but often the nuances go unnoticed. Michael Ian Kaye is here to say there are obvious distinctions between the art and craft of graphic design and the fast-paced world of advertising.

He should know. He leads the design team at Mother Design, the official design arm of Mother New York, a branding and communications agency with clients like Target, Nasty Gal, New York Fashion Week, and Sundance Film Festival.

Here, Kaye talks to us about how design and advertising are different, how ads can be misleading, and how social media levels the playing field for all.

What, to you, are the main differences between design and advertising?

I think it’s the desired outcome, frankly. I do feel like advertising is created with a sense of trying to make an immediate change. A quickness. A reason. Put this ad out in the world and create this action.

Design is a bit of a slower burn. Create this artifact that becomes the representation over a longer period of time. I think the intent—though it gets blurry in the middle—is a bit different. Both in terms of what the objective of the pieces out in the world are, and in the process to getting to those pieces. Read the rest of the interview here.

Logo Lessons from a Lippincott Partner

Su Mathews Hale is senior partner at Lippincott’s San Francisco office, where she heads up branding initiatives for clients such as Hyatt, Walmart, eBay, and Shutterstock. Prior to joining Lippincott more than 10 years ago, she was an associate partner at Pentagram in New York. Hale is currently president of the National AIGA.

We’re so pleased to have her on our panel of judges for this year’s LogoLounge competition. Here, she gives us some advice on creating effective and endearing identity programs.

When working on a large branding project, is the logo always the first thing to consider?

The logo is one of the considerations, but rarely the first. The most important thing to consider is the business strategy and to ensure that the creative vision aligns with where the company is headed. Things designers need to ask themselves, is what does the brand stand for? What’s happening in the company (growth, new products, broader customer base) that the design needs to accommodate for? Most successful companies get to a point where they need a visual facelift to stay modern and relevant, but even in those cases the logo redesign is second to the strategy of the company and changing needs of the customer.

Read the rest of the interview at LogoLounge here.