Posts tagged design
July Recap

July was full and enjoyable. It kicked off with the studio’s summer vacation in the Pacific Northwest, mostly walking in the mountains, and substantial time with family and close friends. Now we’re back in action and grateful for several things we had a hand in during July. 

Lyric Morris-Latchaw in front of the banner she for All Thing New Festival.

Lyric Morris-Latchaw in front of the banner she for All Thing New Festival.

All Things New

Mandy Smith, head pastor at University Christian Church (UCC), had a wild idea while visiting the Oratory at Grailville. She wondered out loud, “What if we had a barn dance?” The Oratory is a former barn that was converted into a sacred space by William Schickel (see June recap for more on Schickel). One thing led to another and All Things New Festival was conceived by a small group of people over several meetings, often in a church basement. D.J., being a member of UCC, was asked to design the Brand Identity for the event. The abstract shape (thing) behind the name represents “things,” from All Things New. It’s a simple mark, but the intention was for it to be easily replicated, as displayed above by the banner created by Lyric Morris-Latchaw. 

Business cards for Scroggins.

Business cards for Scroggins.

Build Beyond

In May we shared about a Mindful Brand Workshop with a local custom home builder. Throughout June and July, we used the information gained from that workshop to design the Brand Identity. Steve Scroggins, the owner of Scroggins, is known for his bow ties. Hence the shape of the logo mark. We tried not to go too literal. That’s why it's more abstract, acting more as an identifier and reminder of Scroggins' underlying collaborative process. We’re still working with Scroggins on their website and will share more after it's finished.

Original mockup of an early version of Chatype.

Original mockup of an early version of Chatype.

Unexpected Type

Sometimes a side project takes on a life of its own, even beyond the project’s lifetime. That’s the case with Chatype, the first custom-designed municipal typeface in the United States. D.J. worked on the project in 2012/2013 while living in Chattanooga, Tennessee. He and his former business partner, Jonathan Mansfield, teamed up with local type designers, Robbie de Villiers and Jeremy Dooley to launch the project. Just this month, some five years later, the typeface was highlighted at London’s Festival of Architecture in a City Identities Exhibition curated by Place Press. It was a delightful and unexpected surprise, to say the least.

D.J. facilitates a Mindful Brand Workshop - Photo by  Chris Glass

D.J. facilitates a Mindful Brand Workshop - Photo by Chris Glass

Food For All

Earlier in June, we kicked off a Brand Identity Design project for a local restaurant with Mindful Brand Workshop. More than a logo, a Brand Identity includes all of the elements that communicate the most authentic self of a company, organization, or person. Often times, it’s easier to create a visual or verbal facade with cool graphics and words that lack any real connection to a core meaning or intention. We’re not so good at making things up. That’s why the Mindful Brand Workshop is at the very beginning of the Brand Identity process. It’s where we mine for the gold, the true self, within our client partners. That’s precisely why the workshop with the restaurant was so exciting. Going into it, there was some pressure on the client team to create a fancier restaurant from their previous ventures. After all, the new spot is in an old elegant bank building. However, after four hours of facilitated conversations, one thing was for sure, fancy’s not their thing. That’s not to say they’re cheap and messy. It’s just that white table clothes and fancy-pants place settings would cramp their lovely, every day, personalities. Likewise, similar considerations will apply to their future name, logo, menus, signage, aprons, decorations, etc. It’s too soon to show anything yet, but stay tuned for progress on the Brand Identity in the coming months. 

I Don't Know, But I'm Willing to Learn.
Book Cocktail – How To Think + Awareness

Book Cocktail – How To Think + Awareness

I intended to write a post dedicated to how much I cringe when designers use the "E" word (empathy) and argue that what we designers really need is humility. Then, this week, I was humbled and rethought my approach. Instead, I’ll talk about what I learned from being humbled.

I started this week coming off of a fantastic conference where was I made aware of the many blind spots in my personal perceptions. While that should have been a humbling experience, and it was to an extent, I felt enlightened. In my mind, I was above others with my newly found awakening (hello ego). It was from that position that I found myself in the middle of a conversation defending a stance that I didn’t have much ground to support. Upon reflection, I was forced to confront the fact that I wasn’t an expert on the topic, but most importantly, that I didn’t possess the humility to learn from my fellow conversationalists.

And that’s when I rethought my approach to this post. Who am I to protest against the "E" word and promote humility when I’m the opposite of humble on any given day. Pretty arrogant, right?

So, I’ll use this opportunity to remind myself this: practice the art of saying and living out, “I don’t know, but I’m willing to learn."

Those words, “I don’t know, but I’m willing to learn,” imagined in the context of design are refreshing:

“I don’t know if this logo makes sense, but I’m willing to show it to several people.”
“I don’t know if this is the best answer, but I’m willing to do the research.”
“I don’t know if this comes across bias, but I will ask.”
“I don’t know you or much about your culture, but I’d love to spend time with you.”
“I don’t know if the website flows well, but I’ll share it with people to see how it works.”
“I don’t know if have the best lens for this problem, but I’m willing to collaborate.”
“I don’t know anything about this subject, but I have a library card.”

With that, I’ll leave you with the weekly links. I haven’t consumed much online information this week, but I’m in the middle of two excellent books that have paired well together (a “book cocktail,” as I like to call it) and influenced my learning this week.



Awareness by Anthony De Mello 

"And so in order to wake up, one thing you need the most is not energy, or strength, or youthfulness, or even great intelligence. The one thing you need most of all is the readiness to learn something new.”

How to Think by Alan Jacobs

"The fundamental problem is the orientation of the will: we suffer from a settled determination to avoid thinking. Relatively few people want to think.”

Bonus Links

Meg and I were in the car, traveling south, this weekend and caught up on several hours of podcasts.

The following three 99 Percent Invisible episodes on how arrogance–an overdose of confidence or the opposite of humility–can drive designers to make bad decisions that have detrimental effects on the people they hope to help.

Ep. 298 - Fordlandia
Ep. 296 - Bijlmer (City of the Future, Part 1)
Ep. 297 - Blood, Sweat & Tears (City of the Future, Part 2)


Thanks to Austin Kleon for promoting How to Think, Father Bob Ross for recommending Awareness, and Megan for proofreading and encouragement. 

To Design is to Decide
Jon and Joe  "take a minute"  to decide their next move.

Jon and Joe "take a minute" to decide their next move.


On last week’s blog, I mentioned how I wish more designers would write about design with the same kind of precision as some writers who write about writing. A few comments on LinkedIn and Facebook encouraged me to try “designing” design. 

It’s a fascinating idea that I’ve been thinking about all week. I’m still not sure how one would begin to design design (confused yet?). My hunch is that it would need to be visually engaging, and would involve a mix of video and animation. I can imagine the helpfulness of a film that streamlines and examines the tools and processes built into the evolution of logo design excise from start to finish.

I’m reminded of the compelling call for design criticism made by designer Jarret Fuller, thoughtfully communicated through a video essay he produced as a student at MICA. Or, within the world of audio and podcasting, Song Exploder provides musicians a place to dissect and examine the road of their creative process. Together with the host, Hrishikesh Hirway, artists unpack each layer of the studio process, highlighting the trivial or the stories behind a song. It’s wonderful.

Inspired by Song Exploder, I have had the dream of creating a podcast or video blog that explores the journey of the design process. (I’d call it “Process Out Loud.”) I made a prototype earlier this year where I walked through the evolution of the brand identity refresh for a client, Indigo Hippo. It’s rough and way too long— I dare you to watch it

How to go about designing design is one riddle, but another inquiry that has been on my mind is this: why is designing/writing about design so important to me? About half-way through the week, I had my “ah-ha” moment: I realized that to design is to make a series of decisions; some tiny, others gigantic. What I desire is to learn what informed the decision making behind great design. In other words, a peek behind the curtain to see what feeds the wizardry and magic.

It’s one thing to be inspired by and swoon over wizardry and magic (i.e. style), but we designers are often guilty of merely copying aesthetic alone, instead of pulling back the curtain on the mechanics that give life to a project. I’m not against copying, but if anything is to be borrowed, we should begin with the who, what, where, when, and why a design was chosen upon in the first place. 

In the end, our design decisions should be informed by the particular puzzle we’re trying to solve. It benefits us to understand how other designers have solved similar obstacles; how they made similar choices. Take the example seen in Arthur Conan Doyle’s sleuthing Sherlock Holmes: often he was found researching historical crimes because he knew how the elements behind a case would usually repeat— the details of a trial from a hundred years ago might be the thing to help him solve a quandary that’s currently vexing him. He’s digging below the surface, for motives and evidence, not an outcome. That’s the motive I hope to bring with “Process Out Loud”— whenever it comes about.

Enjoy the links,


What is your production function? What do you do differently from others that enables you to create what you create? How does what happens in private line up with what happens in public?” I believe mine has something to do with finding the seed that evolves and influences the intentions of my clients' design strategy.

Design as a noun, adjective, and a verb Design is not about finding the most direct journey from A to B. Trial and error along with an open mind are what leads to enlightenment and innovation. As designers we need the curiosity and courage to choose a meandering and unknown trail toward B.”

The 4 Things You Need to Thrive in the Gig Economy “A big distinction between successful independents and the ones who aren’t or go back [to corporate jobs] is getting to that place of knowing what you’re meant to do. That gives me resilience for the ups and downs. It gives me the strength to decline work that isn’t in alignment. It gives me a quality of authenticity and confidence that clients are drawn to. It’s helpful to building or maintaining the business and serving the people I am here to serve.”

On taking the long road After writing this week’s blog I re-read my highlights of this interview with Sarah Nicole Prickett and realized where I inadvertently stole my ah-ha moment. “Writing is all decisions. Putting one morpheme, one word, one clause and one sentence and then one paragraph in order. I can be decisive to the point of judgmental about movies, novels, which car to buy, who to befriend, but in my writing I feel terribly, constitutionally indecisive.” I like how she put it better, but maybe that’s because there again we have a writer writing about writing. 

Why Design Thinking Is Bullshit — “Design thinking marketing needs to stop enchanting industries with a diluted design process. The reduction of a complex creative problem-solving mindset into five steps makes design seem easy when it’s not. A certificate for the completion of a design thinking course is not enough to transform a business into the next Apple. So don’t be deceived by the demystification of the design process or the chance to workshop out million-dollar ideas over post-its. There’s more to design than what design thinking dealers are preaching.”

Wieden+Kennedy Portland create Studio Ghibli-style animation for Travel Oregon More reasons to be excited about Meg’s and my cross-country train trip to the Pacific Northwest this summer.


Kudos to Christopher Maier for edits and Jocelyn Glei for link ideas. 

What are we looking at this week?


Google Arts & Culture (website)
It's very easy to get lost in here.

George Heilmeier’s Method for Solving Research Challenges (Article)
Good questions lead to better answers. Revisit this early and often.

Exit West (Book)
This book was truly touching. I continue to linger on this quote,, "We're all migrants through time."

If Edward Hopper Used Instagram and Facebook (Article)
Learning about Hopper and found these funny memes along the way.

New Logo and Packaging for Diet Coke (Article)
"One thing that seems clear, and made overt in this case, is that major brands are contorting to Millennials and the resulting design expressions are coming out too forced."

Tracing the Hallowed Graphic Posters of the Zurich Schauspielhaus (Article)
Gosh. These posters punch me un the gut in the the greatest way possible.

'The Crown' Characters With Their Real-Life Counterparts (Article)
Meg and I love The Crown. It's pretty amazing how well it was casted. Thanks to Lindsey for the share.

How To Think, in eight easy steps (Article)
What if we reflect, instead of react?

Is this the perfect playground full of junk? (Article)
I’m so jealous of these Welsh children.

35 Insightful Questions from the Proust Questionnaire (Article)
Ask better questions. Have better conversations. I'm going to start asking these on Facebook.

What are we looking at this week?

Two Very Different Kinds of Illustration (article)
In a recent conversation at the Depot, I mentioned that the illustrations on my apps are starting to blend together. Chris, my studio mate, pointed out that there's an article for that.

Investors to Apple: Fight iPhone addiction among kids (article)
Just this past semester, I had my students explore screen addiction as an assignment (one day I'll share the results). Articles like this validate the problem the students were working to understand and offer humble solutions toward.

Warren Buffett’s daily breakfast allowance (article)
Stay humble.

Simple, Stylized Minimalistic Devices Mockups (product)
Entranced by the design. Looks like a solid tool for the UX designer. I'm still sticking with as my goto tool.

Brand New: The Best and Worst Identities of 2017 (article)
I don't keep up with BN on the daily, so it's catch up on the best and worst of 2017 in one place.

Femke Colaris (portfolio)
These illustrations are wonderful. Heard through Tina.

Messy: The Power of Disorder to Transform Our Lives (book)
When we let go of control, our creativity flourishes. Tim proves it. In the middle of this book and loving it.

When trees don′t want to touch each other (article)
Look up next time you walk in the woods.

Roxane Gay: “I’m Really Bad At Saying No." (video)
"My no is an actual no." I like that. Beautiful words and video.

Extraordinary Routines (website)
My routine for 2018? Keep it simple. Go to bed early. Wake at 5:30. Meditate for 20. Read a verse. Pray for others. Do 3 sun salutations. Run or walk (with no music or podcast). Read something inspiring over breakfast. Go to work by 8:30. 

10 New Principles Of Good Design (article)
There's some goof stuff in here. In particular, I liked this line, "Good design chases more than clicks."