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. 

June Recap

We’re off for a two-week summer vacation by train to the Pacific Northwest. That means the studio's closed (even our inbox). It’s an exciting time for Trischler Design Co. because of adventure ahead and because there’s a lot of great work to look forward upon our return. But, let's not get too far ahead ourselves. Instead, here’s a few good things to reflect on from an abridged month of June.

Painting by William Schickel

Painting by William Schickel

William Schickel on The Web

We were introduced to the late artist William Schickel earlier this year. It was on a visit to the William Schickel Gallery run by his son Joe Schickel in Loveland, Oh. We were immediately struck by the depth and array of William’s work. There was great excitement when we were asked by Joe to make a website for the gallery. Up until this point, he hadn’t been much of a web presence. The goal of the new site (created on Squarespace) is to introduce people to William's life and work, make it simple to schedule a visit the gallery, and to sell resources, prints, and merch via an online shop. Ultimately, we hoped to give others a glimpse into a man's life who, in only a few months time since our introduction, has had a profound impact on us both inside and outside of the studio. 

Photo:  D  aniel Smyth

Welcome to Pamland!

If you live in Cincinnati and don’t know Pam Kravetz, well… you should. Pam’s one of the Cincy's greatest cheerleaders along with one of it’s most dynamic artists and educators. We launched a Squarespace site for Pam earlier this month to help her share her story and works with a broader audience. Meg Farmer worked with us on the copywriting. Beyond words, Meg  helped push the site design to another level. Collaboration for the win.

breakthrough-cincy.jpg

New Work!

We’ve been working with Breakthrough Cincinnati on their 2018 Annual Report (as mentioned last month). It was printed and shipped last week. For those of you on their mailing list, keep an eye out for a square envelope. The rest of you can link over to the work section of this site to see images.

cincyflags-skyline.jpg

Looking Forwards/Backwards

My fellow Northside Depot studiomate, Chris Glass, and I joined a group of Cincinnati based designers to create flags for Cincinnati’s 52 neighborhoods. The project will crank up in July with neighborhood convenings where designers will listen to community member stories, and perspectives. In the meantime, please go to the Cincyflags website to share what makes your neighborhood unique.


P.S.

Here's what we enjoyed reading and listening to in June. 

Was introduced to Michael Chabon’s writing after listening to an interview on FreshAir about his new book on being a dad/son, “Pops, Fatherhood In Pieces.” Proceeded to get that book from the library, enjoyed it immensely, and grabbed a couple others for vacation (The Mysteries of Pittsburgh and Werewolves In Their Youth). Feeling good about fiction-only books for the next two weeks of travels.

This article on personalism by David Brooks was a captivating short read on the complexities human beings. It’s a call to not treat each other as “data points” or stereotypes, but instead as equal individuals. Complementing this article well is a podcast interview of Brooks by Tyler Cowen. It’s a deeper dive into his spirituality and political viewpoints. There’s also some especially good thoughts on vacation and calling shared.

Last but not least, one more long, but good podcast. Hadn’t listened to Tara Brach before. Wishing a connection was made sooner. Her episode on radical self-honesty was a breath of fresh air. The premise, that we need to connect with the realities of our life (both the hard stuff and the good stuff). Meditation or mindfulness is a way to do that.

How does this all connect to design? Maybe it doesn’t. Perhaps it does. We’re whole people, not just our titles/stereotypes. What we read, contemplate, and consume influences what we produce whether it’s a logo or loving-kindness towards a neighbor. All that to say, and without getting too deep, remember, you are what you eat.

Enjoy, 
D.J. 

Learn Through Making
Spring is here in Cincinnati. Maybe...

Spring is here in Cincinnati. Maybe...

Last year I heard Don Norman lecture at the University of Cincinnati. One thing stood out more than anything else he shared. He suggested design can be research and research can be design, that the two don’t have to be separate. In my experience, one usually follows the other, and typically it's research first, then design. My process often looks like this: Do a lot of research, collect a bunch of information, and glean loads inspiration that will inform the design (graphic design in my case). But if design can be research, and research can be design, as Norman suggested, why do I always lead with one over the other?

Something about starting with design (sketching, drawing, making) doesn’t feel right. It’s a lot like a painter beginning with a blank canvas. Where does one start? 

If I’m honest, I usually have an initial hunch at the beginning of a project. Why not follow that intuition? 

That’s certainly what I learned from the Soul Collage class at The Hive. To begin the creative process through intuition; by following the gut more so than the mind, at least to start. It was a fruitful and liberating process. Never before have I created so much in so little time. 

What if I started my design process, as the Soul Collage process, with intuition instead of information? That’s what I ended up doing this week. I began a couple of projects in my sketchbook with markers. It was hard. Several times I wanted to hop on the computer and make a project brief. I thought, “I should probably think about the audience, define my desired results, or see how others have approached similar challenges.” I ignored that urge. With a Crayola marker in hand, I began to make; I started to play. As intuition guided my hand, I observed with delight what showed up on the page. New ideas formed that I hadn’t considered. The imperfections of the medium led to happy accidents. I was able to quickly draw and explore different solutions rapidly. 

My experience in the sketchbook reminded me of what one of my wife’s professors, Sue LaPorte, at CCS used to tell her, “Learn through making.” Which is not unlike what Norman said about design being research and research being design.

In the end, I’m not suggesting one approach over the other (that would be dualistic). In reality, learning happens both through research and making. Whether one starts with research or design is determined case by case. As much as I wish there were, there’s no one size fits all approach. 

And now for the weekly links. 

Enjoy, 

D.J. 


How To Think Like An Anthropologist (Book)
While some argue that a designer should learn how to code, I'd like to learn how to think more like an Anthropologist. 

Architects without Architects (Book)
This quote struck me as incredibly pertinent for being written about a century ago: “the expectation that every new discovery or refinement of existing means must contain the promise of higher values or greater happiness is an extremely naive thought... It is not in the least paradoxical to say that a culture may founder on real and tangible progress.”  –  Johan Huizinga 

Death of Stalin (Movie)
During the credits, the lady in front of me turned around and said I had a wonderful laugh. That's because I couldn't stop laughing. The movie was hilarious. I highly recommended it in combination with the book "A Gentleman in Moscow." 

Kudos to Tyler for suggesting "How To Think Like An Anthropologist" and Megan for helping me hone and communicate my ideas. 

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.

Enjoy,

D.J.


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. 

Social Innovation / Social Justice 2018
20180330-SISJ-1.jpg
 

My mind is full and fatigued. Megan (my wife) and I spent the last two days in a symposium at The University of Cincinnati (UC) called Social Innovation, Social Justice: Rethinking Design Anthropology (SISJ). I initially heard about SISJ because I am an adjunct professor at DAAP. When the e-mail came through my inbox, I was intrigued because the visual design wasn’t the typical red and black, masculine and modern aesthetic so often seen in advertisements around DAAP. SISJ is more hospitable, with organic qualities, and leaned refreshingly feminine (I later learned that it was designed by Stephanie Sadre-Orafai, an anthropologist who studies typography). The beautiful visuals, impressive line-up, and a desire to meet other UC faculty were enough to persuade me to sign up. 

The best place to begin describing this event is that it's the brainchild of Stephanie Sadre-Orafai (anthropology) and Brooke Brandewie (fashion), professors from different schools at UC. Collaboration is often preached from podiums, but less often modeled as powerfully as what these two organized. The lineup, composed of predominently female, black and brown, lecturers was the most diverse that I’ve experienced. Each person shared root shaking perspectives that challenged my preconceptions and biases while seeding new and refreshing tools and methodologies.

Instead of sharing my usual weekly links, I decided to share information about each presenter along with nuggets from each of their presentations. I wish I could include more context, but that would take more than a blog post. At the very least, I hope that these reflections give you a glimpse. I also hope that there’s another SISJ that you can attend next year. No pressure Brooke and Stephanie…  

Enjoy, 

D.J. 


Danya Glabau - Medical Anthropologist and Science and Technologies Scholar

I enjoyed these questions that Danya encouraged us to ask throughout the design process to scrutinize our biases (or often times, whiteness): 

“What does the thing serve?" 
“Who does it represent?"
“Who is it made for?"
“Who are we borrowing from/appropriating?”
"What is the social context?"
"What are the social forms and norms?"


April De Simone - Social Impact Designer and Strategist

“People are experts of their own experience.” The people we work with hold the wisdom and experience that informs our design work. 

“Own your own shit.” April shared this quote after a student asked what can be done to make DAAP more diverse. I suppose her answer is a bit like admitting your powerlessness and that what you’ve been doing isn’t working out so well (i.e., step 1 of the 12 steps).
 

Todd Nicewonger - Project Director for Destination Areas at Virginia Tech

Todd led an improv workshop that Megan and I attended. Both of us were intimidated by improv but are glad we went. There was a lot of laughter and learning. Todd had us do several improv exercises (one of which included selling a chair made of granola) that we can use with students and clients to facilitate creative conversations and processes.
 

Lara Penin - Associate Professor of Transdisciplinary Design at Parsons School of Design

“Designers are not really humble.” This goes back to what April shared about people being the experts of their own experiences. What strikes me about this is that designers are usually the first to call for empathy. Perhaps what we really need is a call for humility.

“Personas flatten complexities.” This one hit home. I teach about personas, and I often use them in my professional practice. They have been helpful in encouraging my clients to better understand how to meet the needs of the people they serve. But, at the end of the day, personas are generalizations. They’re not actual people but, rather, ideas of people.
 

Ashlyn Sparrow - Game Designer and Educator

“Work with strength models, not deficit models.” Start with what is positive in people and places.

“Gaming teaches agency, trial and error, creates a safe space to fail, and introduces systems.” I do believe that the many hours I spent during middle school in my basement playing Final Fantasy 7 (a role-playing game) have informed my career. It certainly taught me each of the Ashlyn's points.


Elizabeth Chin - Professor at Art Center College of Design

“Make ideas. Don’t just write about them.” I think this one speaks for itself. 

“Universal design is not universal.” It’s hard, but necessary, to be reminded that what a bunch of white dudes deems right isn’t necessarily what everyone else believes is right. 

“Own the fact that you don’t fit in.” Ah, yes… This is an excellent reminder for me when I'm at the university. I often feel out of place because I’m not an academic. The temptation is to try to do what I can to fit in. Read more books, dress differently, speak the language. I hate standing out… This will be a challenge.

 

 
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,

D.J. 


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.