Tag Archives: Inspiration

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.

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.

Inspiration: Veer Ideas

Veer Ideas

All Images: Veer Ideas.

I’m always on the lookout for fresh visual inspiration — and with the permeation of Pinterest and Tumblr it gets harder to find exciting, provoking imagery that hasn’t been reposted everywhere. Veer, long one of my favorite sources for purchasing fonts, has launched Veer Ideas, a Tumblr full of stunning photos and type. The mix of compositions and colors really gave me a creative jolt — this collection doesn’t disappoint.

Latest & Greatest #6: Anthropologie

latest and greatest

latest and greatest anthropologie

Window display photographed by me // Anthropologie, Santa Monica

I have always admired the aesthetic of Anthropologie but beyond the occasional wardrobe splurge, the overall vibe felt a little too romantic and bohemian for my structured, modern tastes. That changed though when Gala and I were in Santa Monica last month. Maybe because I was in full-on vacation mode and in a city where people wear A LOT more color, I fell in love with what I saw inside the store — it wasn’t just the clothing but moreso the overall presentation and visual merchandising.

latest and greatest anthropologie

Store display photographed by me // Anthropologie, Santa Monica

Even if you’re not an Anthropologie fan, there’s no denying that they design window displays like no other. I used to work with a girl at a design studio who left her career to do the windows for Anthro instead and she loves it. I was browsing through the Anthro site and these are a few of my favorite finds:

latest and greatest anthropologie

1. Feline Karma Dress 2. Dear Parsy Tote 3. Dorian Vest Dress 4. Two-Toned Cocktail Forks.

latest and greatest anthropologie

5. Mod Swathe Heels 6. Literary Correspondence Napkins 7. Barr-Co. Soap 8. Dice Notation Skirt.

latest and greatest anthropologie

I also thought this chair featuring a beach scene upstairs was really, really cool. The whole Anthropologie vibe makes me want to go back on vacation and I’ll be close enough to that feeling, BBQ-ing and relaxing today for the 4th. Hope you have a great one full of relaxation as well.

The Typofiles #105: Magazines and Print Inspiration

I have close to 10 years’ worth of magazine clippings amassed in my flat files and here’s a small sampling. Even with the abundance of reading materials online and on the iPad, I am still a diehard connoisseur of print. I do have an iPad (and subscribe to some magazines that are more interactive) but I’m still keeping my print magazine subscriptions as well. All you hear these days is, “Print is dead!” But it’s really not dead, it’s just changing. You may see less printed materials but the quality of what you do see is higher overall. I love my iPad but still equally enjoy the feeling of digging through stacks of clippings and pooling together inspiration. What about you?

I still have some of my 90s clippings too stuffed into a folder (though those mostly revolve around Kurt & Courtney, some Versace ads and a healthy dose of Marilyn Manson). My poor, poor parents had to deal with my bedroom walls covered in this stuff! And maybe that’s where my nostalgia for print and holding onto my magazine subscriptions comes from — that’s all I had before a steady internet connection and the iPad.

Readers: What iPad publications do you subscribe to? Any recommendations? My favorite so far has been Project Magazine.

Developing A Design Process: 01

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Moodboard for Sasha Gulish Photography branding

One of the questions I get asked most often is about my design process. Most of us have a method for working through a project but once it’s done often enough, it begins to feel like second nature. I’ve continually held off writing this article until now because truthfully, my design process has become so routine that I don’t think of it as being significant. But, when I take the time to step back, I realize that we each have a different method for working through projects and can learn from one another. Today, I’m going to share an overview of the general design process I go through when working on a project. Please note that the process detailed below is focused solely on the creative side of a project and not on any of the administrative or strategic tasks that take place.

1. The Questionnaire

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Nubbytwiglet.com Questionnaire

When I’m working with a new client, I begin my process by sending out a questionnaire. It’s comprised of a short, succinct set of questions meant to jog memories and provide the basic information clients might not otherwise think about. The last question encourages clients to gather their own visual inspiration and links to sites and content they like. After all, we know ourselves better than anyone else and the more we share about what we love & loathe, the easier the designer’s job becomes.

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Nubbytwiglet.com Pinterest

2. Visual Research

While the client is doing their own visual research to show me what they like, I’m doing mine at the same time. Conducting visual research is important because it helps you become aware of current trends. This doesn’t mean that you should rip off every hot color, font and lockup you see. It’s meant to inform you of what’s happening in the world around you. Think about the flipside; you don’t want to end up with a logo that looks exactly like someone else’s because you didn’t do your homework! Clients tend to want a logo that’s on-trend while still remaining unique. But by on-trend, I mean current, not trendy. Nobody wants to go through the hassle of redesigning their logo every few years if they can help it!

My top places to search for visual inspiration are:

1. Designspiration

2. Pinterest (This is my personal account where I save some of my favorite images).


4. Flickr: I have a private folder that I upload everything I find into and have been actively adding to it since college. I do this mainly because I can be anywhere in the world, log in and have my full collection of inspiration at my fingertips.

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Thumbnail sketches from a recent logo design

3. Thumbnail Sketches

Ah, yes. Our college professors made us do page after page of thumbnail sketches and they do have their benefits! My head is usually full of potential fonts and lockups the second I start working on a new project and getting them onto paper helps me define some of the options I really want to explore. Plus, being away from the computer helps me clear my mind and creatively focus in a fresh way. To be completely honest, I’m not a big sketcher. Often, my notebook pages will be composed mostly of lists, like “try this font” and “reference this image.” Sketch, make lists, do whatever suits your style best. Just try to do some part of your creative process away from the computer. Breaking up your routine often yields some of the best, most unexpected results.

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Inspiration section from my presentation deck

4. Presentation with Visual Research

A moodboard (at the top of this post) is more of an arbitrary, outward-facing step I’ve included to show online folks what outside influences inspired me on a particular project. But usually, the visuals I’ve gathered are placed in a section within the first client presentation I deliver called, you guessed it, “Inspiration.” This is beneficial for the client because it can make them more feel more confident of the outcomes when they understand the general reference points. Also, something lurking in the visual inspiration may very well grab their attention. Perhaps they’ll say, “I love the layout of option #4 but the type feels off. Can you modify it to feel more like the type in XYZ?”

5. The Moodboard

I’ve noticed a huge trend lately of designers showing moodboards online of what inspired a particular project. I’ve never shared this part of my process with my readers but am considering making a change the next time I showcase a project. Of course, in my world the inspiration is just a folder of gathered imagery tucked inside the client’s job folder on my hard drive but in an effort to present a so-called organized, methodical look, an example of the visual research I gathered for photographer Sasha Gulish’s identity development is at the top of this post. Looking back, it really did help speed up the design process and aligned perfectly with the colors we’d already been considering.

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The final outcome of Sasha’s identity / business cards (note that only the blue version was printed).

6. Revise / Review / Redeliver

Once you’ve delivered that first round, it’s time to wait for client feedback, revise the options they liked, perhaps gather even more visual inspiration if they’re feeling a particular direction and send off the second round. Rinse and repeat until complete!

I’ve titled this article Developing a Design Process 01 because I figured that you might have more questions about specifics. If there’s something further you’d like to know about developing a process, please leave a question in the comments!