Computer Arts Collection: Branding

Computer Arts Branding

“Branding is about driving a big idea. It’s not about telling untruths — it’s about honing in on a brand’s core truth, and amplifying it.” — Steven Owen, Creative Director of Heavenly

By now, you’ve probably gathered that I’m a huge fan of the Computer Arts Collection, a series of six in-depth guides jam-packed with information from key areas of the global design industry. Topics covered include graphic design, typography, illustration, branding, photography and advertising.

Any of us can hop online and spend hours online doing endless image searches (and I often do), but what makes this branding issue so valuable is that it digs deeper, way beyond the surface level of aesthetically stunning graphics and delves into the design process and strategy. Since my main focus is as a brand designer, this issue was especially insightful — I particularly enjoyed the breakdown of micro branding trends (Branding Influences) because although I’ve come across a lot of the images before, seeing them distilled into specific movements gave me a focused sense of what’s striking a chord in the industry.

Computer Arts Branding

And at a larger scale, I found the macro trend of simplicity in branding to be fascinating. Over the last few years, there’s been a real sense of cutting out the excess visual noise and distilling a brand down to its core elements in an effort to relieve consumers of the completely overwhelming number of choices and social influences they’re constantly inundated with. Think about it: when we’re feeling overwhelmed, we often reach for what seems the most simple, honest and familiar.

Perhaps the most important area this issue touched upon is the current state of the branding industry. With brands now needing to work seamlessly across multiple platforms, it’s imperative for designers to be more informed than ever about how these pieces work together to create a solid, unified experience.

Finally, the real standout of this series is that each issue features a studio project. A leading design studio reveals their full creative process behind a project and you get to follow along, from the brief to the outcome, including video diaries. I thought this would be especially helpful for design students who are wondering what it’s like to work in a studio environment. Having worked in many, I know how different each studio can be depending on the size of the team, the size of the client and the overall corporate culture so getting glimpses of how different studios handle a project can really help all of us hone our process further.

To get your hands on the Computer Arts Collection, go here.

The Hair Dryer Diaries

The Hair Dryer Diaries

I’m one of those girls who admires fancy beauty tools from afar but I always question if they’re really any better than the basics. Will they really improve my life in some way? I tend to mix up my beauty products fairly equally between the high-end and low-end but when it comes to hair, to me it’s just hair. My hair has always been long and straight and it grows really fast. I don’t do a whole lot to it (but let’s be real — if I had the time and funds, I’d get it styled all fancy once a week). For the last five years, I’ve used a basic Conair hair dryer that probably cost a max of $25.00. It does the job but admittedly, it’s not great.

That’s where the Super Solano 232X hair dryer comes in. When Beauty Supply Online offered to let me try one out, I thought sure, why not — it’s a splurge I probably wouldn’t normally invest in on my own and I was really curious. Was it actually superior to my standard-issue dryer?

The Hair Dryer Diaries

After trying it out for a few weeks, the consensus is a resounding yes. Let’s start with the superficial — this is a hair dryer I’m talking about, after all! The Solano is way better looking than a standard-issue dryer. It’s sleek, all black, imprinted with a gold coat of arms logo and not too bulky. But beyond that, it’s way quiet, which I love. The Italians sure know what’s up when building anything with a motor, that’s for sure. The first time I turned it on, I was a bit blown away (haha). Imagine starting up a Ford. And then a Ferrari. One sounds like a basic car, the other one purrs.

A bit embarrassingly, my Conair can overheat big time. I often feel the back of my neck burning and if I get it too close to my hair, this weird clearish smoke comes out in plumes. Kind of scary! The Solano has more precise, dialed settings (it’s not just ice cold air or third degree burn hot) and even on the highest setting, I don’t get that dreaded scorched hair smell. Yet, my hair dried about five minutes faster. The time savings was by far the biggest selling point for me. Finally, I should mention that the cord is super heavy duty which has led to a lot less tangles. The OCD Virgo in me loves that big time.

The Hair Dryer Diaries

In closing: This hair dryer is the equivalent of a luxurious Italian sports car. It probably won’t change your life but it will definitely make your hair drying experience much more enjoyable. I like using a hair dryer that leaves me feeling like I’m in a fancy salon. The sad reality is that I step foot in a salon perhaps every six months so it’s nice to have a pro quality dryer. While your current hair dryer might work perfectly fine, if you can step it up down the road, consider treating yourself.

Readers, I have a question for you: Do you have any extravagant, pricey beauty product or tool that you absolutely swear by? I’ve always had the mindset of “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” but in my older, wiser age, I’m starting to see that there often is a difference.

* Special thanks to Beauty Stop Online for providing me with the Solano Dryer for review.

The Blogcademy Pins!

The Blogcademy Pins

In an ongoing effort to share our sources for our collateral, The Blogcademy just had pins made through One Inch Round. The pricing was reasonable, the service was quick and the customer service was super prompt and helpful. Two thumbs up!

One of the main reasons we went with One Inch Round is because they’re based in Portland and offer you the option to save on shipping in return for local pick-up. I couldn’t be happier with the quality and outcome. I should mention that we went with the 1.25 inch size so the type is legible and crisp but the pin still feels wearable.

The Blogcademy Pins

We’ve now got pins, business cards, stickers and rubber stamps! But of course, we’re saving the best for last. Stay tuned!

The Week In Pictures: 9.21.12

The Week in Pictures

The Week in Pictures

The Week in Pictures

Hello, hello! I’ve been staying in a lot more, trying to enjoy this bit of calm before the storm and wrap up as many little things as possible before I head out to a design retreat next Thursday. I’m really excited about that but also just as excited to be rooming with my longtime friend Star — we’ve met up in cities across the U.S. but never vacationed together and I really can’t wait. She’s the one that first encouraged me to blog on my domain in 2007 and most recently coded up my redesign. LOVE her.

The Week in Pictures

My birthday was awesome. My dad took me to The Rheinländer last Friday and the night just kept getting better. At the end of our meal, I was serenaded in German by a guy with a ponytail wiggling his hips like Elvis who proceeded to dab whipped cream on my nose. Then, since I was sick, I asked my brother to blow out the candle and a wave of powdered sugar blew across my dress with it! I just laughed in embarrassment.

The Week in Pictures

My dad knows how to deliver for my birthday — he handed me some gift cards to my favorite stores and I didn’t waste a minute heading to the mall over the weekend, ripping through it like a crazed teenager and picking up some new baubles (H&M! $16.00!) and fresh inspirational reads.

The Week in Pictures

Clutter is okay as long as it looks fashionable, right? I LOVE that Anthropologie tag! They know what’s up when it comes to branding.

The Week in Pictures

I got dressed the other morning and realized I must be attempting to relive my youth because I’m pretty damn sure I used to have a sweater just like this…in 1994. And wore nude-toned lipstick. And had a similar haircut. HELLO, 90s!

The Week in Pictures

I’m always on the lookout for rad type treatments and this was in the new Bergdorf Goodman catalog of all places! So good. And Rocky always likes to be the center of attention; he gives us the stare-down any time we’re shooting photos that don’t include him. Haha.

The Week in Pictures

I’m happy that Fall is finally here. It’s my favorite season and my birthday gift from Joey were these yellow suede shoes which I’ve been wearing constantly with plaids. Very School’s Out Forever.

I’m off to continue packing, answer a pile of emails and go out on my morning walk. Besides that, I’ll be in my office, working on The Blogcademy magazine throughout the weekend. Have any plans you’re looking forward to?

Link Love: 9.20.12

link love

Bazaar Spain, October 2012

• Time just gathered up its list of the 50 best websites of 2012.

• Are you on the lookout for a clean, minimal WordPress theme? Here’s a list to get you started!

• It seems like guest columnists are popping up more and more on my favorite blogs but this isn’t necessarily the right fit for everyone, including me. I loved Kartina’s thoughts on this.

• A pretty cool DIY: Make your own collar necklace!

• Have you seen Jessica Hische’s Drop Caps popping up on classic Penguin books? So pretty.

• Jenna of A Sweet Fine Day pulled together a little guide of restaurants in the Northwest she just visited.

• 25 lessons from Patti Smith’s Just Kids.

• Construction on the tallest residential building in Manhattan is happening and naturally, the apartments within are being snatched up by billionaires. Yes, billionaires.

• My friend Anna has been blogging for 14 years! I enjoyed reading about all her past blogs and her thoughts on where blogging stands today.

• 9 warning signs of an amateur artist.

• If you’re currently apartment hunting, PadMapper allows you to plot locations on a map and then filter for what exactly you’d like.

Advice #49: Do I Need To Draw Well To Be A Designer?



I’m considering changing careers from biological research to graphic design. I’ve always loved graphic design, and while I have an eye for color and composition, my drawing skills stalled somewhere around 8th grade. How necessary is drawing ability in graphic design? Will I always be passed over for designers who can create their own illustrations?


Makers Gonna Make by Jude Landry.

Don’t let your lack of drawing skills hold you back! This is a surprisingly common question — but you know what? Don’t sweat it. I’m not a great illustrator either but what I realized long ago is that instead of spreading myself too thin, I’d rather be awesome at a few things than a jack of all trades, master of none. Instead of questioning your lack of drawing skills, focus on your strengths and do everything you can to play those up.

My Story

From the time I was four, I drew almost every day. I drew so much on my worksheets in the first grade that I won my school’s art award. I kept on drawing and won contests but as soon as I discovered other mediums, my level of interest began to drift. In my early 20s, I fell in love with collage. It fit in better with my love of fashion magazines, type and textures and this became my preferred art style. My interest in drawing waned even further once I discovered computers. I got my first laptop and a copy of Photoshop 7 in college and that changed my world. I barely picked up a pencil after that except for a life drawing class. I did well in it but I wasn’t passionate about it — design was where my heart was.

Your Role

As a designer, it’s often necessary to do quick thumbnail sketches of concepts, especially when it comes to storyboards and logos. But even more important is your ability to describe your ideas and effectively sell them to your audience. For example, if I’m at an agency and five designers are given an hour to knock out as many logo concepts as possible to present, if I can’t get all of my ideas into the computer, I may sketch a few. And while I’m not a brilliant sketcher, I need to be confident enough in my ideas to stand in front of a group and explain my thought process and how each design relates to the brief. In these instances, sketches are meant to be more gestural — a means to get the idea across.

While you should get to a point that you’re confident putting basic illustrations together in Illustrator and on paper, beyond that, if a studio or agency needs a professional illustrator for a project, they’ll often call in a freelancer for this specific purpose. Don’t get me wrong, there are some designers that naturally excel at illustration like my friend Jake Hollomon — but even more often, you’ll be called upon for your creative concepts, layout solutions and production-based skills.

Market Your Strengths

If you’re not an awesome illustrator, ask yourself what else you can bring to the table. Where else can you excel? Perhaps you’re amazing at photography, social media or trend forecasting? Focus on your positives!

In closing, while it’s an added bonus to be able to illustrate as a graphic designer, if you’re not passionate about it, don’t let it hold you back. Instead, push yourself in other areas. We can’t be the masters of everything but we can excel at some things. Choose your battles and most importantly, do what you love.

Latest & Greatest #9: Olle Eksell

Olle Eksell

Olle Eksell

Lately, Swedish illustrator, writer and graphic designer Olle Eksell’s iconic eyes, which he designed for Mazetti’s Cacao seem to be popping up everywhere I go online. Eksell’s work ranges from wacky to geometric but no matter the style he was working in, the outcome was always thoughtful and precise. When Eksell came to the U.S., a close friendship developed between him and Paul Rand that lasted throughout their lives. He participated in international exhibitions at the Museum of Modern Art in New York, the Louvre in Paris, and the Biennale in Venice and continued to work until his death in 2007.

Olle Eksell

The Eyes poster was printed in 1999 for his exhibition at the Form Design Center in Malmö, Sweden. Though best known for his design and illustration, Eksell also penned the classic Design = Ekonomi.

You can purchase Olle Eksell merchandise through this shop, see more of his work in his Facebook tribute group and see even more images of the famous cocoa eyes poster here.

Image sources: 1, 2, 3.