Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Football and Photoshop

Click any image for a larger view.

I’ve recently move to a new place of employment – still in the graphic design business of course – but before I left my previous employer I had the opportunity to design one final Super Square Off promotional. This photo illustration required extensive Photoshop work. My goal was to create an image that was colorful and energetic.

The stadium light background was a vector stock image I found. 

To this I added a spectrum gradient.

I also added a bokeh pattern to the light beams.

Using a variety of smoke brush tips I painted in these “plasma” beams.

For the football player I chose a stock image that had no identifying markings. I converted the image of the player to grayscale and increased the contrast and sharpness.

I added a spectrum colored aura around the shape of the football player.

Then I added a second, brighter aura to arrive at this final image.

I created the new logo in Adobe Illustrator. In previous years, the logo felt more like a headline with accompanying text. This year I wanted to design it more as an actual logo. 

I've designed the Super Square Off promotional for the past three years and this particular one is my favorite.

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

My Latest Logo Designs

I have been so busy I haven’t had time to write a blog article in quite awhile. Well, in truth I was a little distracted by a nice summer and a vacation. But I was also pretty busy and some of that busyness centered around logo designs. Here are a few I’ve designed in the past several months — all in Adobe Illustrator:

Click any image for a larger view.

This logo was designed as part of an internal training program. The gentleman conducting the training wanted a way to lighten up a very corporate training series so I branded him as a fun and approachable guy who is always available to help the staff learn what they need to learn. 

One of the areas of this training centers around a program called Sales Force. Playing off of that name I took some liberties with his brand for use in a fun promotional poster.

“Try not! Do! Or do not! There is no try.”

For another internal promotional campaign I created this:

Finally I developed three versions of this logo for one of our customers:

Personally, I like the third one with the smart little tech droid.

On top of these, I’ve been working on my own logo. But I’m not ready to reveal that yet. Stay tuned...

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Rebranding Campaign

Lyell Federal Credit Union decided to change their name to Focus First Feder Credit Union. Consequently, they needed to rebrand  under this name, getting word of the name change out to their existing clientele while attracting new customers. The media company I work for took up the challenge with our Enterprise Marketing team. As the graphic designer on the team, it was my job to tackle all of the visual designs aspects of the rebrand.

Here you can see my three logo design concepts 
and the final concept work-up which I presented to the client.

I started of course with the logo design. I came up with 3 designs, all of which incorporated 2 interlocking letter “Fs”. My favorite has the interlocking letters forming the base of a pyramid. This was a slight tip-of-the-hat to the company”s former logo which included a prominent triangle.

Unknown to me at the time, the client had also hired an agency to simultaneously come up with logo designs. In the end, the client went with this third party design, which incorporates the letter “F” in a 3 dimensional, Escheresque graphic.

The client chose this logo designed by a third party.

Still, they did decide to go with all the other marketing materials which I designed so I ended up swapping out my logo for the now official new logo from this third party. “Sigh.” Oh well, I’m a professional so I don’t brood over such things. We created a campaign which formed the basis of a smooth transition from the original corporate identity to the new brand.

Below are some of the pieces from this ongoing marketing campaign. The pieces from our presentation pitch to the client contain my logo design while those from the live campaign utilize my overall designs but with the official new third party logo added.

 Direct mail pieces.

 Print and online display ads.

 Tent cards, brochures and transaction slips for the branch offices.
Social media design.

Monday, June 2, 2014

Branding Campaign for a Carpet Cleaning Company

Clean and Green is a local carpet and tile cleaning company. They use highly effective yet 100% baby and pet safe cleaning products to expertly clean carpets, furniture upholstery and tile. The owners take great pride in their work. Theirs is a high-end, professional cleaning company and they needed to be branded as such.

Clean and Green’s original logo (top right) 
didn’t really stand out from this crowd.

In redesigning the company’s brand and marketing materials, I began by researching the subject of “green” carpet cleaning on the web. I also examined the branding of Clean and Green’s competitors. This is what I found:

  • Mostly sans serif fonts
  • The colors blue and green (for obvious reasons)
  • Leaves
  • Water droplets
  • Globes

Clean and Green’s original logo was no exception to the trends for this market. In order to help make their brand stand out from the rest of the field, I redesigned their logo.

My redesign of the Clean and Green logo.

After a number of preliminary thumbnail sketches and digital roughs, I decided on a butterfly as an example of a beautiful yet seemingly fragile representation of nature. I set the logotype in the following fonts

  • Kabel (Clean / Green)
  • Barcelona (Ampersand)
  • Gotham (Spurling’s / Carpet / Cleaning)

The font Kabel is solid yet friendly and helps contrast the delicate butterfly graphic. It is easily read from a distance when seen on the side of a truck or on a yard sign. The font choices are almost entirely sans serif with the exception of the font Barcelona as used in the ampersand. This lone, serif glyph is enough to set a friendly tone for the logo overall, helping it to be more consumer friendly than corporate aloof.

The logo as it appears in print with assorted tag lines. 
On the left you can also see details of the logo development.

At some point in the process I came up with the “Clean you can…” tag lines. Some variations of this tag line include:

  • Clean you can sink your feet into.
  • Clean you can reflect on.
  • Clean you can sink your claws into.
  • Clean enough to toss the five second rule.

Each tag line is accompanied by an appropriate photo image to appeal to different segments of the marketing audience. 

Just for fun, I also placed a version of the butterfly graphic into each photo image. Can you spot the butterfly?

Below are some examples of how I’ve applied these messages to direct mail pieces, newspaper inserts, responsive website layouts, door hangers and more:  

Print and deliver insert (front and back) and door hanger leave behind.

Print ad, lawn sign, brochure.

Responsive website design.

Office stationery design.

I believe this rebrand helps Clean and Green stand out from the competition and repositions them as a more high-end cleaning business. 

Saturday, May 24, 2014

Design Campaign for a Catering and Events Business

I made this glass button representation of their existing logo.

Red Osier Catering is a catering and event off-shoot of the restaurant I featured in my previous post. They have several permanent storefront locations and a presence at many event locations throughout the Rochester area.

I recently designed a new branding campaign for the company which included outdoor venue signage and banners in various sizes, take-home menus tailored specifically for locations at the Greater Rochester Airport, the Monroe County Office Building in downtown Rochester and the catering location. The campaign also included print and online advertising as well as designs for their social media efforts.

I used the red color from their logo as the primary branding color for the business. From this I created a custom background style which I use in almost all, if not all, of their marketing pieces. Font usage and typesetting is also consistent throughout the campaign.

Some of their outdoor signage.

Print advertising for the campaign.

Social media and online advertising for the campaign.

I tailored these menu designs to fit their several locations. 

Sunday, May 18, 2014

Restaurant Campaign

This local Restaurant is an excellent dining established located in Stafford, New York. The restaurant has a loyal following but the owners would like to increase the patronage of their traditional customers while growing their younger customer base. The problem for this restaurant is location, location, location. It is situated in the middle of a very rural community about halfway between Rochester and Buffalo, so their customers are facing about a 45 minute drive from either direction. Complicating things even more is the growing competition from steak house chains. 

The media company which employees me approached the restaurant’s management with a plan to tackle this problem. As the graphic designer on the team, my task was to design a campaign which would:
  • Reengage the existing customer base
  • Grab the attention of the younger crowd
  • Make a lasting impression with potential customers 

To accomplish this I needed a strong conceptual approach that would:

  • Demand attention
  • Compete with the slick advertising of the chains
  • Minimize (if not neutralize) the perceived distance/location problem
  • Redesign their current website to improve user experience across all platforms from desktop to tablet to smart phone. 

I did this and more, designing a comprehensive campaign for the client with everything from print and online advertising to a new website and even new menus and gift certificates. Here is the campaign – All of the pricing seen below is for placement purposes only and is not necessarily accurate:

Click any image for a larger view. 

When I went to my initial visit with the client, one of the first thoughts that came to the mind of this city boy was, “This is crop circle country!” After they served me a delicious lunch my thought was, “I think people WILL travel light years for this excellent meal and atmosphere.” These initial thoughts formed the basis of my “They Came from Far, Far Away” concept. It is intended as the attention getting start of the overall print and online advertising campaign. If some folks are willing to travel light years for a great dining experience, 45 minutes suddenly doesn’t seem so bad. The main images of the cow, chicken and lobster required extensive Photoshop composite/illustration work.

Following on the heels of this first salvo is a more traditional message. Still maintaining the new branding approach of the custom typography, photos of young customers and price incentives, I’ve switched out the very conceptual imagery with beauty shots of food. These photos are for placement only and are expected to be replaced with custom photography. The only photo which may remain is the lobster.

Newspaper insert (front and back)

Here is a close up of the map from the insert.

Social media messaging.

Responsive website design.

Menu design (including a trifold brochure for clients to take home).

Redesigned gift certificates to appeal to a broader demographic.

In the end, the client decided they want to keep their existing web site and only use some of the print elements of the campaign. Not a slam dunk for me, but I hope even this will help them grow their customer base. 

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Kerning in 5 Easy Steps

Kerning refers to the spacing between any 2 individual letters. For example, in the word TYPESETTING we can kern the space between the letters T and Y or between the letters N and G or between any of the other letter pairs in that word. 

Tracking (sometimes called “letter spacing”) refers to the spacing between all of the letters in a word or a block of text.

Click each image for a larger view.

Although kerning deals with the spacing between two letters, I like to use an approach which has me focus on three letters at a time. I believe this approach is attributed to typographer and designer Ed Benguiat. When I need to adjust the kerning / tracking of a word (while designing a logo for example) I typically follow this process:

Step 1: Customize your kerning/tracking increments in preferences. In InDesign you will find the Kerning / Tracking increments setting under InDesign / Preferences / Units & Increments. The default in InDesign is 20/1000 em. Personally, I like to set this to 5/1000 em simply because some letter relationships require a finer adjustment than the default of 20 will allow. Changing this setting to 5 gives me all the control I need. Now I can place my text tool’s I-beam cursor between letters and add or remove kerning by holding down the command key (Mac) while pressing either the left or right arrow keys.

I can also manually type smaller or larger increments 
for each individual letter using the kerning and tracking 
settings as found on the control panel.

Step 2: Using the 3 letter approach, I zoom in close enough to focus on just three letters. It is tempting to start at the beginning of the word, working left to right. However, I like to do a quick pass across the word to see if I notice any grouping of three letters that already looks “correct.” In this case, I do not see such a grouping but the letters ETT appear to be nearly correct so I’m going to start with them. By just tweaking the spacing between E and T, I now have my first grouping of three as a standard by which to judge the other groupings.

I will continue moving left – focusing on the letters SET, or right – focusing on TIN, making adjustments to three letters at a time and intuitively balancing the positive and negative space between the letters until I have covered the entire word. Many times this first run is sufficient to correct the kerning of a word. Often times, however, I encounter a combination of letters that is more challenging. In those situations, I add the following steps:

Step 3: Next, I like to rotate the word so it is upside-down. Then I go through the same process of examining 3 letters at a time, making adjustments as needed.

Step 4: Rotating the word back to the right-side-up position, I now flip the word horizontally, so it is backward, and examine it again, three letters at a time. Steps 3 and 4  help me to have a fresh view of the spatial relationships of each grouping of letters, allowing me to see these letters more as graphic shapes than as letters. I often find that when I go through steps 3 and 4, I will see something I would have missed had I stopped at step 1. 

Step 5: Satisfied that I have the kerning correct, I flip it back to the normal position to read from left to right. I now zoom back from the word to judge it for legibility.

These letters have been kerned but no tracking adjustments have been made.

Examining for legibility is similar to examining letter spacing. Only this time, I am looking at the whole word to see how the kerning adjustments I have just made affect my ability to quickly scan (read) and understand the word as a whole. Looking at the word in this way, I feel that the overall space between letters is too tight. There are times when extremely tight or loose tracking can be used for effect, but in this case I’m not going for either effect. I want to “open up” this spacing a little so I’m going to increase the tracking by selecting the whole word and using the same key commands I used for kerning. This requires a simple judgment call. I increase the tracking until the spacing looks more “comfortable.”

A Final Note: In my opinion, the letter I requires a bit of extra treatment. Since this letter takes up less overall real estate than the other glyphs, I find that it can become a little lost or overlooked if it is kerned consistently with the other letters. For this reason I like to add a little more kerning on either side of I just to help it out.


And that’s it...kerning in 5 easy steps!