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2011 Blog

The web has an ability to shed its skin and emerge anew every couple of years.  It should not be news to you that the future of web browsing is mobile. Mobile has already overtaken desktop browsing in parts of the world and is projected to do so in the US before the end of 2013.  The technique that most proactive studios and shops have coalesced around is ‘Responsive design’ It is a term I believe was coined by Ethan Marcotte, the author of Responsive Web Design and a leading voice on the topic.  For the uninformed it attempts to address the ever-expanding array of device sizes and... More
You are starting up a small business and it needs a name. Exciting! Given your budget you’ve decided to take on the responsibility yourself. You named your kids after all and Brandon and Brenda turned out okay so why should your business be any different? Before you launch Brendco, I would like to humbly ask you to read this blog post. Your business’s name is one of the key ingredients that make up your brand. If a professional naming exploration is out of the question, we at least need to get you up to speed on some basic considerations. In my experience, it is not that DIY namers aren’t... More
While there are many reasons that small businesses work with the wrong design partners, the most common would appear to be cost. After all, doing it yourself, off shoring the work or hiring the cheapest designer around would seem to be motivated by price. However, I have found that bargain hunting is often a symptom of a larger disease. They are in a rush, and in attempting to budget for everything at once they are willing to accept anything in terms of quality. I call it the “fast food” approach to branding. If having business cards that look like they were ordered off the dollar menu doesn’... More
The first thing every designer learns when they go to school is the power of using grids. That is, to establish a framework from which all of your content can be arranged. Thus, it will all be neatly organized and consistent. At best, design grids make work easier and can be proprietary – as much a part of the brand’s toolkit as its color pallet or typeface. At worst however, it can be an obstruction, as it may prioritize mathematical cleanliness above visual and contextual considerations. This all comes to mind because I find myself working on a collateral piece, which of course I began with... More
It is not remarkable to encounter a small business in need of a holistic refresh of their brand’s look and feel. However, it becomes noteworthy when you are informed that they have just recently invested thousands into their design, only to be disappointed by the results. There are a myriad of reasons why this occurs. At the center of them all is the fact that many small and early-stage enterprises simply don’t have any familiarity with the process and they choose the wrong partner. What should they have been aware of? Know the difference between design and branding You wouldn’t step up to... More
Last summer at the Boston Design4Drupal conference and again at DrupalCon Chicago I had the pleasure of watching Jared Spool speak about web usability. He is the kind of presenter that sneaks up on you with a dry subject matter but leaves the crowd rolling with laughter as he quips his way through examples of UX failures. Among the lessons learned from Spool was the idea that there is sometimes a gap between what users know, and what they need to know to operate your site. That is where we call upon design to bridge the gap. Unfortunately, I feel that many have simply opted to eliminate the... More
When visual communication was rendered through oil on canvas one would not have a hard time arguing that it was the oil, and not the canvas that mattered most. While a well-crafted substrate was essential it was also something to take for granted. The great masters were painters and the skill with which they applied their medium was the measure of that greatness. Today’s canvas of choice is the web. It is so powerful, dynamic and ubiquitous that it has devoured all other forms of media. Music, theater, film and even traditional art are now most commonly seen on the Internet. Often times... More
For the uninitiated, last month I produced an unofficial design exploration in an effort to rebrand the Drupal Association’s membership badges. I want to thank those of you who offered feedback and voted in my poll.  It turns out while I was working on my exploration another effort was underway to address Drupal’s subbrands. As of this post, their pairing of the official wordmark with Helvetica Neue Light can be seen gracing the pages of the Drupal Association’s site, among others. That said, it was obvious that I should recook my exploration to leverage the wordmark as well as Helvetica Neue... More
Brands are like people in the sense that they can be related to each other.  And like people, those associations can open doors or become a burden. I feel like this latter point if often missed when organizations consider rolling out a new product as a brand extension. I recently put together a strategy presentation for a client to explore this topic using Coors Brewing Company as my example. I thought it might be of interest to those considering extending their brand. Let me begin by explaining the concept of a brand extension.  It is essentially just adding another member of the family.  In... More
UPDATE: Take a look at Part 2 of this post where we make some revisions and incorporte the wordmark into our exploration. The other month I finally got off my can and became an individual member of the Drupal Association. I’ve been using the CMS increasingly since ’07 and the Chicago registration process reminded me that I should chip in. Beyond the sense of goodwill one feels from giving some money back to the community, Association members are provided a selection of seals they can place on their site promoting their contribution. Unfortunately they are ugly. Drupal has a branding problem.... More
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