Why do logos steal the spotlight?

Are logos as important as they seem?

Are logos as important as they seem?


Trademarks are limited in their ability to communicate Big Ideas. They’re an expression of a Big Idea, but they’re not a Big Idea. At best they identify and/or a signify a company or organization.

Are trademarks (aka logos, symbols, monograms, emblems, etc.) really that important? That’s the question that's crossed my mind recently while designing one for an interior design studio based in Salt Lake City, Utah. I was researching other design studios across the web when I realized that what I’m most interested in is not the trademark, but the Big Idea behind a company. It's ethos and purpose. I’m about 12 hours into the project, and I haven’t designed anything (aside from a presentation of my research), but what I have done is collect a bunch of words into sentences and phrases that represent my client's Big Idea. Reading these words is much more exciting than looking at the trademarks I've found.

Trademarks are limited in their ability to communicate Big Ideas. They’re an expression of a Big Idea, but they’re not a Big Idea. At best they identify and/or a signify a company or organization.

That doesn’t mean one should neglect the design of their trademark. It should still be good, following age-old design principles, ultimately with the aim to be as timeless as needed/possible, and it should also represent the organization's personality and culture (i.e., don’t put lipstick on a pig). But beyond these “shoulds," a trademark doesn’t have much more responsibility. Instead of stealing the spotlight, they’re better among a cast of characters that make up a brand identity system of an organization.

Considering a new trademark? Perhaps it’s best to uncover your Big Idea first? It may take longer, but if you begin to live out your purpose and ambitions, the logo will follow, increasing the affinity your audience has toward the shapes, typefaces, and colors that represent your company or organization. Already living out your Big Idea, but your trademark is still lagging behind? Then maybe it’s time to consider a refresh. Either way, this is a conversation that I love to have with people, and I’d like to have with you whether your a fellow designer or current/potential client.


Mid-Semester Lessons from Capstone

Behold, the Capstone!

Behold, the Capstone!


It’s the end of February, and we’re about at the half-way point through the spring semester. I’ve been teaching the Senior Capstone course at DAAP. The primary purpose of Capstone is for the students to exhibit the skills they’ve acquired during the last four years at DAAP. In that way, “teacher” isn’t quite the right description for my role because the end goal isn’t to learn from me. My job is to help the students express their knowledge and to encourage them through the most extended project they’ve worked on to date. It’s a lot more like the role of a coach. 

I’m new at this, so it’s been my temptation to teach rather than to coach. I’ve been critiquing their work based on where I think it should be on a made up timeline in my mind (i.e., finished yesterday). Likewise, I find myself attaching to projects, imagining where I’d take them, and sharing feedback to that end. If I were to name the fear behind these behaviors, it would be that I’m afraid people (other professors, designers, etc.) will judge me based on student outcomes. Not cool. I’m aware.

It’s dawned on me that the outcome isn’t nearly as important compared to all that they are learning in the middle of the process right now.
 

Equipped with that awareness, I’ve begun to loosen up. As I walked up the stairs to DAAP before class the other day, I told myself to have fun, get to know the students, and focus less on critiquing the work. They have plenty of avenues for feedback. What if my task is more to cheer them on, over all of the inevitable design blocks, through this daunting design journey? It's dawned on me that the outcome isn’t nearly as important compared to all that the students are learning in the middle of the process right now. Trust and be faithful to the process and the results will work themselves out. That's a lesson I’m continually learning in my work as an adjunct professor and professional designer/business owner. It’s a lesson that I’ll need a reminded of again and again.

Speaking of process, the students are keeping an online journal of their Capstone process in a Medium publication. Please take a moment to check their work so far. If you’re feeling extra generous, make a comment or “applaud” their posts.

Click here to view the publication. 


Advice to Design Students I

Make a more interesting chicken.

Make a more interesting chicken.

I’ve been working with students as an adjunct professor at DAAP, and I consistently find them stuck in the middle of a design block. They’re usually playing it safe. There’s not a whole lot distinguishing their iterations or, there’s not a whole lot of iterations to look at. More often than not, there’s an attachment to a solution (usually a first or second iteration). Their unwillingness to release these early solutions prevents them from doing better work. I’m all too familiar with this situation in my own practice. Here are some ways I’ve gotten out of a design block.


On getting past a design block:

  • Try typefaces you haven’t used before (Fontstand, Adobe Fonts, Klim Test Fonts, Future Fonts). Typography is your secret weapon.

  • Swap projects and have a peer to design a version to get their perspective. It’s not cheating. It’s collaboration.  

  • Print out your screens and take a sharpie marker or Exacto knife to them. They're not precious.

  • Turn off your wi-fi and design without checking the internet or Instagram for inspiration (give your self three hours and see what you come up with). You’ll make more than you ever have before.

  • Limit your self to three or four elements (shapes, colors, type, line). See how far you can push those simple elements. It might be helpful to start an empty Illustrator artboard and play. Be bold. Try different variations. Pull out what you love.

  • Design the wrongest solution. That may help you know what’s right.


Additionally, critique is a fantastic way to get new perspectives and do better work, but you have to go in prepared.

On getting your work critiqued:

  • Bring specific questions that you’re struggling to resolve.

  • Don’t spend the whole time talking about your process and research. Talk about the work you want to be critiqued.  

  • It’s hard to critique a design that’s 10% finished. Try to get it to 60% - 80% and let the critique help you to 90% - 100%.

  • Don’t defend your work. If it’s good, it will protect itself. If it’s weak, it will get stronger the more it’s beaten up.


This is the most frustrating phase of design. You think everything is terrible. But, you’re not alone. It happens to students and professionals alike. Don't give up! It will evolve into something better.


Screens of Good

Screens of Good University of Cincinnati DAAP 2018

If you had three days to work on a project with senior design students what would you do? That was the question asked of me by the University of Tennessee, Knoxville design program. The first thing I thought of was an episode of 99 Percent Invisible where an ingenuitive Los Angeleno designed and installed a new exit sign on an LA freeway so that he and others would no longer miss their off ramp. Out of that inspiration “Signs of Good” came to life. Signs of Good was a three-day design blitz with the goal of installing temporary signage around the university to create a more pleasing campus experiences (like the freeway sign). Below is an example of one of the resulting projects. It’s a texting lane so that students wouldn’t run into each other while walking across campus.


Texting Lane at University of Tennessee.

Texting Lane at University of Tennessee.


Fast forward to 2017. I had to come up with an assignment to conclude a user-centered design course at University of Cincinnati, DAAP. This time I was an adjunct professor. Rather than design "Signs" of Good, I decided with my TAs that the students would work toward "Screens" of Good.

The assignment was introduced with a quote from an interview with Tony Fadell, the inventor of Nest, and one of the designers of the iPhone. “I wake up in cold sweats thinking, what did we bring to the world?” Fadell shares his concern over the negative consequences of new technologies like the iPhone. He points out the fact that most new technologies are designed by men in their 20s without kids. They aren’t developing products with anyone else in mind but themselves. Fadell ends the interview with a question. How do we fix the technology? And that’s the question Screens of Good asks of the students.

Executing a user-centered process, the class was tasked with generating humble solutions to the gigantic problem articulated by Fadell. The students (split up into teams) had to demonstrate skills in user research and evaluative research. In a nutshell, they had to interview and survey users, design and build a paper prototype based on that research (use of the computer was discouraged), and evaluate the prototype for feedback that would make it better. In theory, their idea and design should get better the more it was filtered through the user-centered process.


Minimal app concept with only four options.

Minimal app concept with only four options.


The results? Here are a few examples from different stages of the assignment as reported from several different teams. Each are from the fall 2018 semester. It was my second semester giving the assignment. The final deliverable was a Medium.com entry highlighting their design process from start to finish. Click here to read one of the more excellent essays.


Survey results to questions related to behavioral patterns connected to phone usage


An Affinity Diagram used to form insights from the research gathered.


Anticipated user experience sequence.



Evaluative testing of a paper prototype.


Paper prototype of a scavenger hunt app for children.

Paper prototype of a scavenger hunt app for children.

.This app reminds you when you haven’t heard or reached out to a friend in awhile.


If you'd like to learn more about Screens of Good or Signs of Good, please contact me at dj@trischlerdesign.com or trischdj@ucmail.uc.edu.


October Recap
 
China Partnership Website Refresh

China Partnership Website Refresh

China Partnership

Repeat clients are the best. We first worked with China Partnership the refresh of their brand identity design 2014. It was fun to re-engage and see that our work is still serving them well. With the upcoming release of their first book, they asked us to design promotional materials including a trade show booth, collateral pieces, and website refresh. China Partnership's new book is about their work with the house church movement in Chinese cities. China can be a challenging place for people of a Christian faith tradition, so we’re happy to play a part in the promotion their work.

 
 
West Price Hill Flag Option 3

West Price Hill Flag Option 3

Cincy Flags

This month, the Cincy Flags design team started to present their designs to neighborhood councils around the city for feedback. Chris Glass and I (D.J.) worked on seven neighborhood flags; Lower Price Hill, East Price Hill, West Price Hill, South Fairmount, Riverside, Sedamsville, and Sayler Park. Visit cincyflags.com to have a look and vote for your favorites. The top flag for each neighborhood will be selected and presented later this year or early next. All of the designs will be open source and available entirely free to use by the community. It’s exciting to think of the flags hanging from peoples porches or a recreation center flag pool. 

 
 
Kindness Club Logo

Kindness Club Logo

Kindness Club

Back in May (2018), we worked on the brand identity design for School Board School with Elisa Hoffman during a People's Liberty launch day. Elisa’s daughter liked the School Board School design so much that she asked her mom if Trischler Design Co. design would create a logo for her Kindness Club at Kilgour Elementary. Of course, we said yes. The design process began with a meeting with Lily Hope to learn about her club. It’s quite moving to hear an elementary school student speak about spreading kindness. Together, we decided the logo should be playful, optimistic and welcoming. Lily Hope shared some logos and typefaces she had gathered as inspiration. We collected Lily Hope’s thoughts and came up with the solution pictured above. The decision was made on a typographic solution so that it could be easily shared. Lily Hope has ambitions of the club spreading to other schools in Cincinnati and beyond. The type is bold, unique, and fun. The goal is the brand to stand out in the hallways of an elementary drawing much deserved attention to Lily Hope’s wonderful group. We're designing a second logo for Lily Hope. It will be for her G.I.R.L.S. Book Club. Stay tuned for more in December (2018).  

 
 
Tell are you friends!

Tell are you friends!

We’re Contracting…

We’re exploring what it would look like to contract a young graphic designer for two half-days a week (8-10 hours total). Hopefully, the need would increase, but we’re starting with baby steps. Ideally, the person would have typographic skills, a handle on the creative suite, and some experience with Squarespace. If you’re interested, click the button below.

 
September Recap
 
Branch (Restaurant) & Night Drop (Basement Bar) Logos.

Branch (Restaurant) & Night Drop (Basement Bar) Logos.

Branch & Night Drop

Over the last several months I’ve been working with The Littlefield Group on the brand identity design of their latest venture, Branch & Night Drop. Branch is a beautiful, naturally lit, restaurant and Night Drop is the dark, basement level, bar below it. They're housed within the old bank building (formerly Central Trust) in Cincinnati’s historic East Walnut Hills neighborhood (next to O-Pi-O). Branch & Night Drop will serve up unexpected combinations of food, drinks, and art. Their doors are scheduled for this winter (2018). Sign up to be the first to know when at their site. And, also be sure to check out the window mural by Jon Flannery and Julia Lapowski of owls on a branch next time you drive/walk by the bank.

 
 
Examples of Assignment One - User-Centered Design.

Examples of Assignment One - User-Centered Design.

User-Centered Designer

As the first assignment for my User-Centered Design class, I had the students write about a professional designer who practices User-Centered Design in some shape or fashion. As a requirement, the students had to interview the professional designer or a person who has used or experienced the output of their work. I most enjoyed reading their takeaways from the assignment. Often, students shared how it was valuable to see how practicing professionals actually utilize the methods and tools learned in class. I pulled some of my favorite essays and used them in a lecture on modern day UCD practitioners. I’d notice a big smile in the crowd each time a student realized that the person I was presenting was the person they wrote about. Teaching continues to bring me joy, especially in the little moments like that.

 
 
Want to be a good design? Read.

Want to be a good design? Read.

What are we reading?

I’ve been reading the Man The Man Who Mistook His Wife For A Hat by Oliver Sacks and The Gift by Lewis Hyde. Both at a snails pace. The Man Who Mistook HIs Wife For A Hat is an entertaining, highly readable, look into what it might be like to lose different physical and sensory abilities. The Gift is an anthropological deep dive into gift giving and receiving. The book’s written specifically for creative people who make things and share them with the world (like designers). As someone who hopes to become more generous and less scarcity driven, it’s been enlightening and encouraging. 

Here’s a quote from each book: 

"What is more important for us, at an elemental level, than the control, the owning and operation, of our own physical selves? And yet it is so automatic, so familiar, we never give it a thought.” - Oliver Sacks

“Any exchange, be it of ideas of goats, will tend toward gift if it is intended to recognize, establish, and maintain community.” - Lewis Hyde

 
 
Tell are you friends!

Tell are you friends!

We’re Contracting…

We’re exploring what it would look like to contract a young graphic designer for two half-days a week (8-10 hours total). Hopefully, the need would increase, but we’re starting with baby steps. Ideally, the person would have typographic skills, a handle on the creative suite, and some experience with Squarespace. If you’re interested, click the button below.