Should You Design Your Own Logo?


You’re a designer, so everything you design—not just what’s in your portfolio—is an example of your work.

When your prospects and clients go to your website or online portfolio to look at your work,
they will certainly assume that you’re the creative behind your logo design.

So how could you not design your own logo?

should you design your own logo?

When Designing Your Own Logo Becomes a Problem

All of the above makes sense, of course. Unless you’re one of those designers (and you’re not alone) who just can’t seem to finish designing your own logo (or your own website, for that matter, or
any other element of your own self-promotional materials).

It’s not that you aren’t working on your own materials. In fact, that’s the problem.

You’re always working on it, refining it, perfecting it. But no matter how much you tinker,
you’re still not happy with it. It never feels “finished” or “ready.”

But here’s the reality: Your own self-promotional materials are never done—they are always

And the fact that the web makes it possible to keep updating everything (unlike print, where it
is almost literally in stone) means that it never actually has to be finished. It just has to be
“good enough for now.”

Have you noticed too that it’s always easier to design for others than for yourself? That’s the ultimate paradox of being a designer—for some mysterious reason, you can’t do for yourself what you can so easily and naturally do for your clients. Why not?

More importantly, what to do about it?

Your Best Options for Getting Your Logo Designed

What I’ve noticed in my almost 30 years of advising designers on their own marketing is this: You’re too close to it, and you may be a perfectionist.

Those two facts together can be lethal. But they don’t have to be.

From where I sit, here are your options:

  • Just finish it, even if it’s not perfect. And think about it as a work in progress.
  • Hire another designer to do it for you. I know it seems like cheating but it’s not,
    especially if that will get it done! You’re better off with a logo designed by someone else
    than no logo at all.
  • Trade with a fellow designer. This may be the best option—choose a friend or colleague whose work you like and who may be stuck in the same spot as you are, and design each other’s logos.

Whichever option you choose, I implore you to do something.

In fact, I dare you to put it out there, even in its unfinished or imperfect form. And see what
a relief it will be.


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5 Tried and True Design Devices for Logo Designers

5 Tried and True Design Devices for Logo Designers

Thanks to Bill Gardner and LogoLounge and judges Aaron Draplin (Draplin Design Co.), Von Glitschka (Glitschka Studios) Su Mathews Hale (Lippincott), Andreas Karl  (Karl Design) Chad Michael (Chad Michael Studio), Emily Oberman (Pentagram), Yo Santosa (Ferroconcrete) Felix Sockwell, Alex Tass, and Alex Trochut for all their insights and opinions into the logo design trends and insights that tried-and-true as well as impacting design in a fresh way right now.


When applied appropriately, crests can convey a sense of tradition, whether the brand has a rich history or not, and they blend a variety of design elements to create a cohesive look. “I like them because they are complex but still simple to read and take in,” Glitschka says. “A handful of these were in my top-rated logos.”

Draplin adds, “I loved the ‘pack a bunch of stuff in’ crests I saw. But of course, those work best when you can read all the stuff, say, on a T-shirt. I just dug the detail, line consistency and overall spirit of how people packed in a ton of info to such beautiful lock-ups. That’s how we used to do it on the top of a barrel carrying—I don’t know—hard tack or some shit.”

logo design ideas; crestsCopper & Brave by Braue: Brand Design Experts 

logo design ideas; crestsPrinted Threads by Paul Sirmon LLC

logo design ideas; crestsElevation Beer Co. by Sunday Lounge

Geometric Devices

“I have noticed the use of basic geometric elements—circles, squares, either on their own or involved in constructions where symmetry and logic were involved,” Tass explains. “It is definitely a classic direction, but one that never gets old.”

logo design ideas; geometric devicesSteeple Bay by Gardner Design

logo design ideas; geometric devicesTsukat by Brandforma

logo design ideas; geometric devicesStacks by Greg Thomas


“The unified weight look has really caught fire over the past decade, where an image or typography is designed with a single stroke weight,” Michael observes. “I enjoy this approach, but it is difficult to master beautifully.”

logo design ideas; monolineOutbound Coalition by Brokenstraw Art & Design

logo design ideas; monolineFluent by Tractorbeam

logo design ideas; monolineMagnus Alpha by Mauricio Cremer

[Discover 6 things to avoid when designing a logo]

Handcrafted Logotypes

With so many breweries and coffee shops popping up everywhere, it’s no surprise that hand-lettered, artisan logos are still relevant. People crave the details over the monotony. Sockwell thinks it’s simpler than that. “There’s a lot of digital stuff that looks impersonal, and this goes directly against that.”

In the same vein, seals and type on a curved baseline were prevalent. As Santosa notes, “They are classic devices, but I’m guessing it’s really popular because it gives a crafty/artisan feel.”

logo design ideas; handcrafted logotypesGreen5 by Denis Ulyanov

logo design ideas; handcrafted logotypesMadison Homebrewers and Tasters Guild by Chapa Design

logo design ideas; handcrafted logotypesWild Theory Brewing Co. by Sunday Lounge

Highlighted Silhouettes

“The highlighted silhouette look has been around for over 100 years, so I found it comforting to know designers are still employing this and successfully so,” says Michael. “Of course, as with any style, it is all about execution and avoiding regurgitating a form we’ve all seen a hundred times. The highlighted silhouette is here to stay.”

logo design ideas; highlighted silhouettesKeg Creek Brewing by Oxide Design Co.

logo design ideas; highlighted silhouettesHighbrow by Spin Design

logo design ideas; highlighted silhouettesKhi-Khi Milk Co. by J Fletcher Design

[Online Course: Logo Design Basics]

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What’s Wrong with This Picture? Designing a Logo with an Online Service

logo design awards

Is it Possible to Commission a Decent Logo Online?

A memorable and effective logo design is like the ballet: It looks easy, but it represents thousands of hours of hard work and sweat, research and thought, plus an occasional dose of frustration, distilled into a tiny beautiful moment. Within the field of graphic design, logo design is a subspecialty that commands high prices, and for good reason. However, there are now plenty of websites where, for nominal fees, anyone can commission a logo or create one themselves by choosing from a kit of icons and typeface options, mixing and matching to their heart’s content.

This development was inevitable, and many professional designers hate the thought that their years of training and expertise are not valued by potential clients who think design services are overpriced and that their kids could do just as good a job designing a logo. It’s almost too easy to make fun of the whole thing as a design travesty, etc.

But assumptions aside: Is it possible to commission a decent logo from one of the interactive places? We decided to find out.

Designing a Logo with an Online Service

I invented a company whose sole product is called Cat Crunchies, and randomly selected a logo design website. It promised four separate logo concepts (though you receive only one as a final) created by two dedicated designers, with 48-hour turnaround, unlimited revisions, and a money-back guarantee. With a coupon offer, the lowest-priced package cost $39 (normally $149).

On each round of comments I gave deliberately ambiguous feedback. In an ideal world, when this happens a graphic designer comes back to the client for a quick conversation to clarify and learn what he or she was really hoping to see. Because my only option for phone contact was with a very nervous-sounding project manager working out of what sounded like a telemarketing room, I was never given an opportunity to communicate directly with the people responsible for bringing my vision to life.


Exact name to appear on logo: Cat Crunchies

Slogan (if any): Vegan, gluten-free treats for cats

Preferred style of logo: Modern

Look and feel: We want to convey the feeling of love for your cat and wanting to give him or her the very best healthy treats.

Additional comments: Comes in six flavors, provides 12 essential vitamins and minerals, cleans teeth and promotes healthy gums, responsibly sourced ingredients.

I added a random photo of my own cat, who sadly never made an appearance in any of the logo versions.


Started in a garage in Brooklyn in the fall of 2017, Cat Crunchies aims to give cat owners a healthy alternative to heavily processed treats found in supermarkets. We give 15% of profits to animal shelters and sponsor quarterly Adopt-A-Cat fairs. Every batch of Cat Crunchies is baked by hand and packaged in our signature tins.


Based on the information I provided and the above criteria, ideally the logo would allude in some way to a cat, perhaps communicate the idea of a crunchy treat as opposed to a daily meal, and also emphasize a healthy, small-batch, socially responsive vibe. I asked for “modern,” so I was hoping to see clean, contemporary-looking solutions to the assignment.

designing a logo with an online service

Version One: The Aristocat

This solution was puzzling from the get-go. The Disney quality of the illustration doesn’t fit with any part of the design brief.

Client request after round one: Can we please try different and fewer colors, these look cartoon-y, and a more modern style of letters? Note: It isn’t only the colors that’s lending this one its cartoon vibe; it’s the illustration style. The designer needed to read between the lines of what I asked for and what I was objecting to, in order to fully resolve the issue.

What I got back? Salmon pink makes an appearance and the typeface has gone from a vaguely thorny serif to a squared sans. Not more modern, but definitely different. Cat remains the same.

Client request after round two: I like the colors better, but the cat looks very feminine. I worry that cat owners will think these treats are just for girl cats. Is there a way to fix that?

Resolution: Disney cat is gone, replaced with Maneki Neko, the lucky cat charm popular in Japanese and Chinese cultures. Huh? Less feminine perhaps, but not more appropriate—in fact, that kind of came out of nowhere, and doesn’t suit the brief either. Many people associate the color pink with femininity, so the designer might have tried to address that by presenting another color choice.

Decision: Unusable.

Managing a Web Design Project from Start to Finish: A HOW Design University Course

designing a logo with an online service

Version Two: Corporate Cat

Navy blue and maroon are odd color choices for this project, considering they are most often seen in conservative palettes used for banking and/or insurance companies. Nothing about the color choices feels organic or food-related, says “cat,” or communicates anything about the use of natural healthy ingredients.

Client request after round one: I would like to see how it looks to play up the “Vegan” and “Gluten-Free” on this one since this is important to our customers. Can the colors look more like cat fur? [Note: this last remark was a deliberate attempt to be annoying.]

What I got back? Vegan and gluten free are now red instead of blue. No other methods of emphasis: change of scale, typeface, position were sent. Comment about cat fur colors ignored.

Client request after round two: Can we put the “vegan/gluten-free” into a separate little burst or a bubble? Also it would be good to try colors that look more like a cat.

Resolution: Half-hearted bubble drawn around existing words, with addition of a background color that is the same value as the red type, so the type basically disappears from lack of contrast. Second ask to try cat fur colors ignored. Designer appears to have given up.

Decision: Unusable.

designing a logo with an online service

Version Three: Hello Amoeba Kitty

This one was so depressing from the get-go (boring colors, unappealing blobby cat) that I almost didn’t attempt to work with it. Still, hope springs eternal.

Client request after round one: Could this one feel more exciting and show how owners love their cats? Maybe the letters are too plain, or the colors? [Note: This is a kind of typically vague client feedback. Unhappiness is expressed, but no real solid direction offered.]

What I got back? I have no idea what happened here. I imagine the designer with six YouTube windows open, texting, and microwaving a Hot Pocket while talking on a headset.

Request after round two: This one still doesn’t feel like it shows how you love your cat, maybe it’s the color or maybe it needs something that says love, like hearts or a hug?

Resolution: Holy crow. That heart is applied like a Band-Aid with no attempt to integrate it into the rest of the design. If the solution doesn’t work, solve it another way. Colors unchanged.

Decision: Unusable.

designing a logo with an online logo design service

Version Four: Peek A Boo

The initial try had a playful quality that I appreciated. Although the cat looked a bit like an insect, this one seemed the most promising of the four design options.

Client request after round one: I think this would look good with fun colors and if the word crunchies was not cutting into the cat. Is it possible to say “cat” without showing a drawing of one? [Note: this was not a direct request to take the cat out.]

What I got back? The cat is gone, never to return. Colors are definitely more “fun.” The word crunchies is still overlaid atop the word cat, though.

Client request after round two: The word crunchies is still cutting into the word cat, can you move it down? (Perhaps I should have asked for the restoration of the cat drawing just to see what might have happened.)

Resolution: I got everything I asked for.

Decision: So is this a good logo? Sadly, no. Just filling a client’s requests doesn’t make for good design; a designer has to listen to feedback then think on it and offer better solutions. Most clients don’t speak the language of design well enough to be able to say what they really want; a designer’s job is partly to act as interpreter, define and solve the problem, and make suggestions on how to get there. This logo has some worthwhile qualities—the use of a textured typeface that jumps up and down from its baseline for the word Crunchies communicates noise and activity, and overall the design feels lighthearted, suitable for a pet treat product. But the kerning on “cat” is terrible and the word cat is not properly centered over crunchies.

Why It Just Didn’t Work

On all four options, there were no real explorations of other concepts or potential solutions on any version after feedback. Changing small details like a type color or adding a burst to an existing design that isn’t working tends not to solve the problem. If a client asks to put something into a bubble, chances are good the designer has to rearrange things, play with scale and maybe a different typeface. What I got back weren’t really new versions, they were just quick alterations on the first idea. It felt like there was no opportunity for the designers to play and experiment, to try other options as what-ifs … in other words, the fun part of their jobs seemed absent.

This is not meant as a critique of the talent or abilities of the people assigned to my project. It’s more an illustration of the basic fact that all design, and logo design in particular, is about communication and vision. The designers and I never spoke but went through comments provided through an online form, via a middleman who probably had a dozen other projects he was trafficking at the same time. Even at the busiest, largest design agencies a client always has a chance to meet with the people on the design team, hear what they have to say, engage and exchange ideas, and collaborate. That’s what was missing from this experience, and that’s how I ended up with a hot pink and lime green logo for my vegan, gluten-free, small-batch Cat Crunchies.

Know what it is to put your own design acumen behind a great logo design? Don’t just let it sit there. Submit it for consideration to the HOW Logo Design Awards, accepting entries for a limited time!

The post What’s Wrong with This Picture? Designing a Logo with an Online Service appeared first on HOW Design.

6 Reasons Why Wedding Invitations Will Never Go Digital

If there is one thing that probably won’t ever go digital, it’s wedding invitations. The long-held tradition of sending wedding invites to guests. According to etiquette expert Lizzie Post, co-president of the Emily Post Institute, going paperless is not appropriate for a wedding—especially when keeping in mind they are kept as keepsakes, not to mention considering your older guests. Wedding invitations are alive and well on Etsy and at letterpress shops across the world who still print the old school way.

“Weddings are such an important event in a person’s life and for many people, this might be the only formal event thrown in their honor,” said Post. “A mailed invitation carries clout and sentimentality for such a revered event; the formality of the invitation reflects the formality of the event, and a physical representation of this event in the communication stage is still important, even if it’s a small wedding.”

In celebration of print wedding invitations, here are some outstanding examples of wedding graphic design—and what makes them special.

1. Nothing beats a treasure hunt map

Portland-based graphic designer Ian Collins designed his own wedding invites with his wife—by giving it an “In the Woods” touch. By using their home printer and a rented laser cutter. “Our wedding was in the woods, and we hoped the pop-up trees would give our prospective guests a taste of event they would be attending,” said Collins. “The RSVP card was perforated, which let the guest remove the response card and keep a handy map of the surrounding area. An accordion-style field-guide was also included, with illustrations done by my wife of local plants and animals.”

Wedding Invitations

2. Anecdotes illustrate a couple’s love story

Dallas-based graphic designer Emily Holt says a perk of being a graphic designer is designing your own wedding invitations. “But the downside of being a graphic designer?” she asks, “you can design your own wedding invitations—and basically have to—I could have easily spent 50+ hours on mine, so I tried not to overthink things and keep it simple.” She explains how she dated her partner Brad for six years before getting hitched, so she wanted to incorporate their love story into the design. “I illustrated icons for major milestones in our relationship for the back of the main invitation. From there they’re a mix of simple, graphic patterns and my favorite color palette.”

Wedding Invitations

3. It’s a way to bring the wedding’s vision alive

Melissa Arey, the graphic designer behind Hello Invite has made countless wedding invitations. Since she first fell into the business after making the invitations for her own wedding. “When my husband and I got married, I did all of our wedding paper goodies, I loved every minute of it, thinking this would be so much fun to do for a living,” she said. “I was so shocked at how many compliments we received from the invites to the programs and reception mementos. What started with one set of invites quickly grew through word of mouth and here we are almost seven years later and each year gets busier than the last.”

Arey says that she hopes to give a strong introduction to the couple’s big day with the invitations. “I love meeting new brides and bringing their wedding vision to life on paper,” said Arey. “I strive to make their wedding invitation one of the first glimpses into their special day as unique and beautiful as possible.”

Wedding Invitations

4. It’s a way to charm wedding guests

To Mount Pleasant-based designer Sarah Reed, wedding invitations are a way to charm guests into the big day with illustrious stationery, beginning with the save the date all the way through to the place card. She is known for the watercolor map invites which is ideal for out-of-town guests traveling for the wedding—which offers a where’s-where map that includes hotels, receptions and city landmarks.

“We don’t just make invitations—we go through all of the logistics and design elements for the big day to make sure that no detail is left untouched,” says Reed, who quotes Charles Eames: “The details are not the details. They make the design.”

5. It’s the ultimate way to display next-level creativity

Designer Kelli Anderson created a Paper Record Player as a wedding invitation for one couple; Karen, a rights advocate lawyer, and Michael, a Grammy-nominated sound engineer. “Music brought them together so it is only fitting that their invite should be delivered in music form,” said Anderson. “Their invite is a record player, that when spun, will play a song they wrote together.”

Wedding Invitations

Anderson explains that the booklet-style invite has paper folding that amplifies the sound of a sewing needle moving across the grooves of a flexidisc record. “The hand-spun record yields a garbled, but scrutable listening of an original song by the couple,” she said. “It requires a bit of tinkering and folding —effectively championing the inner science-nerd kid in the recipient. The whole thing serves as an interactive packaging for the song—which can be experienced on the paper record player.”

“It felt really important that the invitation reference the social role of music in bringing people together… and ideally would feature an original song by the couple to seal the deal,” she adds.

6. It’s a way to take photography off Instagram

Elana Dweck is the founding designer of Mélangerie, a New York-based bespoke paper project company which designed genius-level Viewmaster Invitations, where guests are mailed the retro 1980s photography toys as wedding invites. Really, pop in the rotating photo card and fit in a custom image reel to wedding guests. “It’s sent off with the wedding card, and of course a Viewmaster,” said Dweck. “Guests can check out your photos and have a bit of fun themselves.”

Wedding InvitationsWedding Invitations

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How to Define Your Value Proposition

Value Proposition

You’ve probably heard the term “value proposition” thrown around at a few meetings before. While it might seem like a buzzword, it is one of the most important things for your business to define and take ownership of. Oftentimes in branding, we talk about the importance of knowing your “why”. With value proposition, we’re really focusing on the “what”. Your value proposition defines what it is that you have to offer your key stakeholders. Put simply, your value proposition is your niche. It’s what makes you stand out from the crowd.

Value Proposition

What’s a stakeholder?

A stakeholder is anyone that holds a stake in the work you do. For designers, the key stakeholder is commonly thought of as the client. The client is certainly central to your work, but they are not the only stakeholder involved. Other common stakeholders for designers include your team, collaborators, the industry at-large, and the end user/audience for the work itself.

Here’s the tricky thing: More often than not, the value you THINK you are providing to your stakeholders is actually different than the value that THEY are seeing. As a result, when defining your value proposition, it is critical to keep an open mind and evaluate both the value you are personally projecting, and the value that is being perceived by those around you.

Recently, we published a series of toolkits called Give All that capture all of the methodologies we’ve leveraged with hundreds of clients over the years at verynice. One of those toolkits, Value Proposition, is great for working through this important process.

Here’s a quick activity from the toolkit to help you define your value proposition:

First, begin by digging into as many things as you can that shed light on the way in which you have been projecting your value. This might look like a collection of public-facing material (like social media posts, website content, etc.). If you don’t have any of that, think back to the last time you explained to someone what it is that you did. Read through all of this, and take some time to reflect.

  • What message is being projected about the value your work provides?
  • What keywords are you using the describe what makes you or your service/product unique?

Next, evaluate the way in which your value is being perceived by others. Take some time to speak to existing customers, and ask them what it is that they think is valuable about what you do.

  • How do these interpretations of your value line up with the value you’ve been projecting?
  • How can you refine your messaging in order to make that value more clear?

Based on what you’ve learned thus far, attempt to write a short description (no longer than 3-4 sentences) that defines your value proposition. This should be informed by both the projected and perceived value that you’ve just uncovered, but also a range of other factors, including thoughts around the following:

  • Your key stakeholder’s greatest need, and the way in which your work fulfills that need.
  • Your greatest competitor, and the key differences between your work/approach and there’s.
  • Your own personal values, and what drives your perspective of the world.

I won’t sugar coat this, this is not an easy task. That said, if you see your value proposition as something that is in a constant state of further definition and evolution, it takes some of the weight off of the process as a whole. The best thing you can do is start. Know that it is natural (and actually great!) for this value to change! A few final tips, selected from the best practices section of our Value Proposition toolkit:

  1. When developing your value proposition, work with your existing audience to get an understanding for how you are being perceived, and see how that differs from the value and unique differentiation you’re projecting in your current marketing material. If you are starting something from scratch, and do not have an audience to get feedback from, you can also have conversations with previous coworkers or employers about your work in general.
  2. A common mistake in value proposition design is to spend too much time thinking about your competition, as well as all of the cool features and benefits of your organization. Don’t get tunnel vision! Instead, think about your users. What do they need? How are those needs currently being fulfilled by your competitors? How do you fulfill those needs in a better way? Take the time to understand how the need that you are meeting fits into the ecosystem of their other needs (which may be fulfilled by others!).
  3. The value proposition has to speak to your core competency. As a result, it will be impossible to appease every pain point of your users. Stay true to what you know you can deliver well, and rank the identified pain points informed by this reality.

Understand your client’s marketing objectives fully when you complete this certificate in marketing.

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Ray of Light: Award-Winning Annual Reports Design

Italian lighting manufacturer Axolight hired Teikna Design to complete a total rebrand to be unveiled during the 2017 Milan Design Week. This work, which included a logo redesign, strategic repositioning, photo art direction, the website and catalogs, was driven by the idea that Axolight should no longer primarily target reps and dealers but rather appeal to specifiers and the design community. Previously, Axolight was perceived more as a product than a design-oriented brand—despite the company’s proven commitment to innovative design solutions and technology. This significant shift in focus required a radically different visual language, which was inspired by midcentury-modern style: basic geometric forms, vibrant colors, the font Futura and the strong, impactful use of graphic patterns.

Award-Winning Annual Reports DesignAward-Winning Annual Reports Design

The work on the catalog started in January 2017, with a deadline of March, in time for Milan Design Week 2017, which had a focus on lighting, says Claudia Neri, Teikna’s principal and design director. That was a tight schedule for producing 250-plus pages featuring more than 100 products. “Moreover, quite a few new products were still in the prototyping stage as we were at work on the layout of the catalog,” Neri says. “This resulted in a kind of double-sided pressure: On the one hand, the printers needed to have our files ASAP; on the other, the engineers were still testing products and kept changing the specs, inevitably delaying our work.”

Teikna’s brand repositioning work was barely finalized when it was put to the test on the catalog. Any critical issue was tested live on the project. “We had to keep rewriting some of our own rules,” Neri says. “Overall, it was a fantastic opportunity to test the strength of the brand system we had devised.”

Award-Winning Annual Reports DesignAward-Winning Annual Reports Design

The day the catalog was shipped, Teikna received a phone call from Axolight CEO Roberto Vivian telling the team how incredibly pleased he was, as the new catalog channeled his vision for a radical change of the brand. Axolight’s existing clients and partners were also positively surprised, and everyone agreed it was a quantum leap forward, Neri says. And it didn’t go unnoticed that upgrading the design and overall image hadn’t happened at the expense of practicality and usability.

Award-Winning Annual Reports DesignAward-Winning Annual Reports DesignAward-Winning Annual Reports Design

Title Axolight Bespoke Design Catalog | Design Firm Teikna Design, Milan; | Creative Team Claudia Neri, art director/designer/copywriter; Elisa Stagnoli, design assistant | Printer Grafiche Antiga | Client Axolight

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Pressing On: Keeping Letterpress Alive

Design language is global. Get recognized today.

What is letterpress? Who uses it today? And who will use letterpress in ten, twenty, forty years? Those are just some of the questions that co-directors Andrew P. Quinn and Erin Beckloff attempt to answer in Pressing On: The Letterpress Film. Anybody can easily set type digitally, on devices as small as a smartphone, so why get messy doing letterpress? If you don’t know the answers to the above questions, you definitely need to watch Pressing On. If you do know the answers to the above questions, you should still watch it.

Pressing On

Documenting Design, Explaining Letterpress

Art and design have had a healthy presence on the big screen and small screen over the past decade, going back to 2007’s Helvetica by director Gary Hustwit. Since then, other documentaries about design have popped up, including but not limited to Art & Copy (2009), as well as Doug Wilson’s Linotype the Film (2012) and Briar Levit’s Graphic Means (2017). Netflix’s Abstract: The Art of Design (2017) has only had one season so far, but it’s well-rounded, including illustrators and footwear designers, and also auto and graphic designers. Pressing On is a recent addition to the genre, and it does not disappoint.

Director of photography Joseph Vella captures the printers’ workshops and tools in rich lighting, showing these artists, designers, and engineers in their natural habitat (albeit, mostly a crowded habitat, and full disclosure, both of my offices are also crowded, full of design stuff, collectibles, and ephemera). Focused mostly on the Midwest, members of the APA (Amalgamated Printers Association) share their stories, discussing how they got into letterpress and why letterpress will continue and must continue, regardless of the current challenges, and challenges that could lie ahead. Inspirational works by Hatch Show Print and Hamilton Wood Type & Printing Museum provide a definite wow factor throughout the movie—in truth, all of the design and typography in Pressing On struck me as wowee zowie.

In addition to learning about modern-day letterpress practitioners, historical background establishes context, going back to scribes who wrote and translated texts by hand, up to Gutenberg and the Bible, into the digital revolution. Movable type has never truly gone away, despite typographical and technological advances, including desktop publishing, print on demand, and web typography, not to mention having digital type on every personal electronic device. Stepping away from the computer and into the workshop, shop, or studio, the work and the machines are habit-forming—in a good way. Those who have used letterpress are familiar with its magic, but if the siren song of letterpress has never called to you, Pressing On might ensnare you.

Pressing On

Stephanie Carpenter

On screen, “The aesthetic is what draws people in,” says letterpress printer Stephanie Carpenter, who is also the assistant director at the Hamilton Wood Type & Printing Museum in Two Rivers, Wisconsin, and an educator and graphic designer. By the end of Pressing On, viewers will realize that it’s not just the visual aesthetic of letterpress printing, but every single aesthetic. Sights. Sounds. Smells. Processes. Methods. Planning. Producing. Printing. And yet, a lot of time and energy goes into letterpress. There are a lot of stories told, some of which overlap, and they all prove that letterpress is life.

Pressing On

Printing as Privilege

But for some, printing isn’t a full-time job. It’s a privilege, a word Tammy Winn uses to describe letterpress and the opportunities that her and her husband Adam have been able to share with each other, and with the Iowa community through The Red Door Press. “I sought out letterpress,” said Tammy during a phone interview, “shoving a 1500-pound letterpress into the garage. The friends I’ve made, the conversations I’ve had, it’s incredible and unexpected. The day I take that for granted, I won’t be printing anymore—but I don’t think that will happen. My shop’s my happy place.” Tammy and Adam both still have their full-time day jobs—not as letterpress printers—so they aren’t able to work on press as much as they’d like. “If there does come a point when we can quit them,” Adam told me, “then printing full-time will be a privilege we have earned.”

Pressing On

Adam Winn (left) & Tammy Winn (right)

Not only do Tammy and Adam print and teach printing, but they also collect—and in some cases rescue—letterpress equipment. One of the most gripping scenes in the documentary involved just that, rescuing a printer. (Rescue is all I can say. I don’t want to spoil it.) During our interview, Adam said that, “Community is vital to the survival of letterpress,” and he and his wife have been a vital part of that endeavor, especially when it comes to the equipment they’ve collected and restored. When Tammy and Adam go to work, united as a team, and you get to see other members of the letterpress community come together for meet-ups, classes, and social events, you see the words of Rich Hopkins come to life. “It’s a shared passion,” he told me. In the movie, sharing is how masters and students come together, teaching each other, carrying on traditions, and inspiring not only each other, but also the next generation.

Pressing On

Rich Hopkins

For the Love of Letterpress

On college campuses, during printing workshops, and at design conferences, I’ve seen design students and professional designers use letterpress once, and want to use it again and again, and again. Pressing On shows why letterpress matters, and how it brings people together, and above all, why touching typography—physically manipulating it and the ink and paper used for printing—is an experience in and of itself. Tammy Winn summed it up when she told me, “For the people who fall in love with it, you don’t want it to go away. It’s all a labor of love.” After seeing the movie and the connections that the artists, designers, engineers, printers, and technicians have with the media—and with each other—I’m hopeful and confident that this generation and subsequent generations will carry on the letterpress tradition. Pressing on, indeed.

Pressing On

Pressing On still images by Bayonet Media.

Pressing On is available on all major video on demand platforms: iTunes, Amazon, Vimeo, Vudu, Fandango Now, InDemand, DirecTV and Kanopy.

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Bottle Service: Award-Winning Packaging Design

The Bedlam vodka bottle is intended to act as the brand’s loud-mouthed ambassador on store shelves. The brand’s wry voice and rugged aesthetics are displayed prominently on the bottle—showcasing not only its attitude, but its history, as well. The objective of the bottle design was to stand apart on the shelf while telling the story of Bedlam’s Irish heritage and taste that are an absolute departure from the traditional “clean” vodka profile. A closer look reveals that the bottle isn’t perfectly symmetrical, nor is it crystal clear like neighboring vodka brands. This bottle was designed to disrupt mundane vodka displays while the brand disrupts the industry.

Award-Winning Packaging Design

The Republik team completed the bottle design in about five weeks, while simultaneously creating the brand identity. “Such a quick turnaround forced us to work past expected answers quickly,” says associate creative director Matt Shapiro, who worked on everything from the concept to handlettering, design and art direction of the packaging design/logotype. “Working on the identity of the brand as we were designing the packaging gave us the unique opportunity to develop a package that felt truly integrated into the brand’s DNA.”

Award-Winning Packaging Design
Award-Winning Packaging Design
Award-Winning Packaging Design
Award-Winning Packaging Design

Creating a package that reflected the rebellious position inherent in the brand’s name and history posed the largest challenge during the design process. “Through that process, we landed on a design that became entirely handlettered, which had its own set of challenges, particularly balancing a raw aesthetic while maintaining correct hierarchy without feeling cluttered,” Shapiro says. But the process of handlettering was something the team came to really enjoy. “Stepping away from the computer screen and working with physical objects interrupted our normal flow and forced us to really slow down and make elements even more intentional,” Shapiro says.

The client was ecstatic when they saw the first rendering of the bottle. “This being the first product they released, it really helped solidify the attitude and vision for their business,” Shapiro says. “From there, the Bedlam bottle became a beacon for our client to turn to when making any choice for the brand.”

Title Bedlam Vodka Bottle | Design Firm The Republik, Raleigh, NC; | Creative Team Robert Shaw West, executive creative director; Matt Shapiro, art director/designer/illustrator; Brandon Guthrie, art director/designer; Luke Rayson art director; Dwayne Fry, executive strategic director; Rachel Wells, strategic director; Neil Hinson, copywriter; Luke Rayson, production manager | Client Graybeard Distillery

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How To Stop the Feast or Famine Syndrome: Part 2

Is this you?

  • You see your client’s projects as more important or valuable than your own.
  • You take your client’s business more seriously than your own.
  • You put your own business development (including bookkeeping and billing) on the back burner and literally do your own stuff last or not at all.

If so, then you probably also suffer from The Feast or Famine Syndrome. You know, when you are forced to take whatever comes along (a.k.a. “word of mouth”) because you believe you can’t afford to do otherwise. Or you settle for cheap clients, and sometimes even abusive clients.

This must stop!

The Feast or Famine SyndromePhoto by Kai Pilger on Unsplash

In Part 1 of this article, we established that the way out of Feast or Famine is to begin with these 3 mindset shifts:

  1. Shift from “The client’s project is the real work” to “My business is my priority.”
  2. Shift from “I want my clients to be happy” to “My happiness counts most”
  3. Shift from “Why won’t they respond?” To “The ball is always in my court.”

Now it’s time to add some action, because if scattershot marketing leads to a roller coaster of projects, then steady and focused marketing is the antidote.

In other words, you can harness the power of marketing to smooth out the waves of unpredictable work.

Building on those 3 new mindsets, here are 3 actions you can take:

  1. “My business is my priority.” = “My tasks get done first.” That means, you tend to your own business growth first – literally! Do it first thing in the week (don’t leave it for Friday) and first thing in the morning, when you are thinking most clearly. Don’t put “paying” client work ahead of researching your target market, sending out your email newsletter or attending a networking event. Don’t sacrifice your future to a measly client project! Prioritize your own strategic planning, self-promotion and billing. Carve out time for yourself, put it in your calendar and protect that time as if it were your lifeline, because it is!
  2. “My opinion counts most” = “I do my best for myself too.” That means committing to doing your absolute best for yourself! Use your own common sense. Do what you know is best or, if you don’t know, get help from someone who knows. Don’t let yourself flounder. Your clients get help from experts (that’s you) and so should you.
  3. “The ball is always in my court” = “I know what my next step is.” That means, instead of waiting for a response from anyone, you don’t even expect one and you already know what you’ll do next. For example, if you submit a proposal and don’t hear back within a week, re-send it with a friendly note that says, “Just want to make sure you saw this – please confirm receipt.” That way, when a prospect or a client does respond, you’ll be thrilled and even a little surprised. In the meantime, assume responsibility and always be poised for action. And, don’t give up when the people you want to work with don’t respond to your messages. Keep reaching out and showing your interest, your persistence and professionalism – humor helps too. Because you really have no idea what’s happening on their end. So don’t assume the worst!

None of this is hard, especially if you’re already making the effort to cultivate the right mindset.

On a practical level, all it takes is a little bit of your attention every day. 30 minutes could be plenty. In fact, treat yourself like your own client, if that’s what it takes to put yourself first.

And if you need help, take advantage of the complimentary 30-minute mentoring session I offer to pick my brain and get your questions answered.

The Feast or Famine Syndrome

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The Football Atlas Project Pairs Analog Design with Digital to Celebrate Passion

Charcoal sketches of famous football (soccer, for most Americans) players littered Michael Raisch’s studio floor. Producing so many sketches on his own time and growing so tired he remembers one night stepping on the face of Argentina star Lio Messi (“which is bad”). But even in the mad rush to produce more in his popular The Football Atlas series ahead of and during the World Cup in Russia, Raisch has kept his focus and continued to excite passionate fan bases by merging analog design through digital means.

Raisch Studio Raisch Studio

Raisch, senior design and new media director at well-known sports design studio Fanbrandz, also runs Raisch Studios. After creating an artistic design of a famous football athlete laid over top a map of their country taken from a 1971 atlas outgrew Raisch’s normal Twitter popularity, he knew he was on to something.

“There is something original in the idea that is literally mapping these people over their nations,” he says. “Using the physicality of an old atlas, it is a throwback thing.”

Credit the atlas with much of the inspiration. “I like reframing something into my own context or style,” he says. “You always put something of yourself in the piece and always have some sort of point of view that is uniquely yours. The atlas is this throwback to something I always found interesting as a kid.”

Raisch Studio
Raisch Studio
Raisch Studio
Raisch Studio

When The Football Atlas project started for Raisch, it was just weeks ahead of the World Cup in Russia. With 32 teams in the tournament, he had plenty of material to work with for his passion project.

Each design takes just about 90 minutes. He sets a timer on his phone so he doesn’t get too wrapped up into every detail. Using charcoal, he spends about 60 minutes drawing the nation’s biggest star, taking into account how their image will overlay on a map of the country. For Messi, he says he knew Argentina’s peninsula-style shape required a vertical take on Messi to marry up to the shape of the country. The Saudi Arabia image, though, shows outstretched arms connecting two oceans. He calls the illustrations quick and gestural with tight work in the faces that spin out into body positions. Once drawn, Raisch sets up two soft boxes and takes a high-res photo of the drawing, loading the file into the Adobe cloud.

Raisch StudioRaisch Studio

During the drawing portion of the project, he was struck with how drawing differing ethnic backgrounds provided an interesting way to look at the world and a “fascinating” portrait study.

Having already built a digital archive of the 1971 atlas—the company that produced the book no longer exists—he can easily grab files from the Adobe cloud and merge them together. The way an old atlas map offers a design document of its own, gives a powerful background, he says. With the player and atlas combined, Raisch then eyeballs the creation of the World Cup kit to give proper design and color to the uniform. He works on painting in flag colors and proper layering so you see the cities of the country coming through the athlete. “To me, the towns become the jersey,” Raisch says. “They become the fabric (of the country), literally.” He then puts the finishing touches on the design with the final underpainting and tweaking of placements, wrapping up less than 30 minutes of “very fun” digital work to complete the design.

With the World Cup in full swing, Raisch has continued his project, with more than a dozen of the countries represented. The feedback of encouragement comes from all types of people and in all languages. The Raisch designs have resonated. It could be tapping into the national pride with the use of the map. It could be the looseness of charcoal drawings that come so unlike what the sports world typically offers or maybe the visual language of print analog and drawing analog merging into a digital design.

Raisch Studio
Raisch Studio
Raisch Studio
Raisch Studio

The engagement Raisch has seen on Twitter on both his @RaischStudios and @footballatlas_ accounts have far surpassed typical organic impressions. “I think something in the fabric of maps and sense of place captures scale and prestige of playing for your home nation,” he says.

Moving forward, Raisch still has a few major countries he hopes to draw—Spain and Brazil, for example—even as he gets requests for some of the countries not as popular on the sports stage, such as Switzerland and Serbia. Working with major sports leagues, especially the NHL and MLB, Raisch says he has enjoyed this give and take with fans during the process, something not normally part of his work. He’s programmed to have everything completely done, polished and locked down before anything goes public.

“I just started putting them out and they took off,” he says. “An eighth of the way in and people are fired up. It has been fun that it hasn’t been a pressure thing (to do all 32). I don’t want to turn it into a chore.”

Raisch Studio
Raisch Studio
Raisch Studio
Raisch Studio
Raisch Studio
Raisch Studio

Tim Newcomb covers sports design for HOW. Follow him on Twitter at @tdnewcomb.

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