DESIGN@WORK

Connecting the dots between business and design.

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Launching a Film for a Great Cause: The Noble Spirit

I’m going to tell you a little story that helps explain why I haven’t posted in several weeks.

On a beautiful, sunny but windy day in July, I was sitting on a beach in Rowena, Oregon, with my laptop working, of course (what else would I be doing on a beach?), when an older gentleman in a wetsuit sat down near me. Near enough to say hello and ask me what I was working on. We struck up a casual conversation — as strangers do on a beach — about the strength of the wind (very popular topic in the Columbia River Gorge), the kite surfers (also popular), and my boyfriend-at-the-time who was out there windsurfing while I was working on the beach. I had no clue that 14 years later, this stranger would be struggling to live with Lou Gehrig’s disease, or that I would be doing my darndest to promote a documentary about him in order to help him reach his goal of raising as much money as possible for ALS while he was still alive. Over the years, he had become one of my dearest friends — my family on the West coast, in fact. I discovered that during this hardest part of his challenging life that I’d do anything for him, because he’s always done so much for me, and the many friends he’s made across the world.

Melissa & Fred on my  Birthday Party in Portland, 2003

Melissa & Fred at my Birthday Party in Portland, 2003

Before Fred was first diagnosed, we knew something was going wrong with him — he was tripping a lot and had difficulty walking. But he’d had a terrifying paragliding accident a few years earlier that almost killed him (3 times) and cracked his pelvis in half, so we thought the problems were complications from that fall. In December 2010, he got the news that it was ALS, or Lou Gehrig’s disease. I can’t tell you what ALS stands for, and no doctor or scientist can tell you exactly what causes the disease, nor what will cure it. It’s a terrible diagnosis, not only because of what it does to the body but because there’s no fix for it. It’s a slow deterioration and suffering until death. Fred’s body has slowly been shutting down on him over the last three years while his mind stays sharp as ever.

Fred Windsurfing in Brazil, 2002

Fred Windsurfing in Brazil, 2002

For Fred, this is the worst thing that could happen to him — worse even than a fatal drop paragliding,  a deadly crash while wilderness skiing, a murderous confrontation while traveling in an exotic land, or a life-ending fall from the tall towers that he spent his working life building, climbing, repairing. Fred is a do-it-yourself, super-capable kind of guy. When you’re Fred’s friend and you find something that you can do for him that he needs help with, it’s supremely satisfying. In these last years, he’s had to learn reliance on others and to let them take care of him. I suspect that this has been the hardest challenge of all — letting go of the idea that he can do anything himself. When you’re bound to a wheelchair and you lose the ability to feed, clothe, bathe, relieve yourself…you’re forced to face this. Of course, that doesn’t make it any easier. As Johnny Cash sings, “It all goes down in your mind.” That can be a steep mountain to climb, especially when people stop understanding what you are saying because your speech is so impaired.

Melissa & Fred, July 2013

Melissa & Fred, July 2013

Once Fred accepted that he had ALS and this was the way it was going to go, he got busy making plans. Not plans to die, but plans to do as much as he possibly could while he lived. He met up with the local ALS Association chapter and decided to put on a fundraiser that was close to his heart — Ski to Defeat ALS. The event has raised $500,000 in three years. Although Fred is no longer able to ski on his own two legs, he’s already mastered the sit-ski which is evidently as much a blast. He trained for the fundraiser by heliskiing in the The Bugaboos. On the sit-ski.

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Fred wilderness skiing, 2012. Photo by Andrea Johnson.

Next, Fred decided it would be cool to make a movie that documents his experience with ALS so that it could be used for additional fundraising after he is gone. Thus, The Noble Spirit was born. A film crew followed him around for three years and made a beautiful tribute to him, designed to inspire courage and generosity in others — traits we can learn to cultivate from Fred. Here’s the trailer:

That brings me to the point of this post. For the last three weeks, I’ve been working my tail off to pull a website together for the film release, www.thenoblespirit.org, update Fred’s blog, organize the Facebook page and connect it to the Twitter account, create posters and flyers and other promotional material, and of course create the email campaign. All those things I do every day for my clients, but in this case they are the most important things I could ever do. To honor my friend.

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Fred at our annual summer BBQ. He is a total chick magnet. Still.

Fred’s lived his life by the mantra of “never say no,” and it’s been chock full of fantastic adventures, wonderful friends across the globe, satisfying successes and a few painful accidents. By all accounts, his has been a life to be envied and modeled. I myself learned that I don’t have to work while I’m sitting on the beach. It’s OK to put the laptop down and have a friendly conversation with a total stranger. Who knows? He may just be one of the best people you’ll ever meet.

The film The Noble Spirit is slowly rolling out, mostly on the West coast right now. You can keep track of screenings here, or follow our Facebook page and we’ll keep you updated. And remember, as Fred always says: Every day is a gift. Enjoy!

Infographic: Happy St. Patrick’s Day!

Greetings from Savannah, Georgia, on this St. Patrick’s Day! Savannah hosts a huge St. Pat’s celebration, expecting 300,000 people this year. Despite the rainy day, I can attest to the throngs of partiers in green hats! For fast facts in St. Pats, check out the “St. Patrick’s Day by the Numbers” infographic below, from thehistorychannel.com.

2014-0317-st-patricks-day-infographic-final-forwebCourtesy of The History Channel. See original post »

 

 

Step 3: Translating Brand into Visual Identity

Here we are at the point where the rubber hits the road in the brand development process. We’ve learned all about your company and described your brand in detail. This is the arty part: creating an identity that reflects all the chatter.

Between the core values and the personality we’ve defined for your brand, we usually have an idea of the general direction the creative needs to go. In the case of Green Jay below, we knew we wanted to do something very specific — utilize a bird, which reflected the company name as well as the concept of “ecological landscaping” from the brand frame. We offered one option that diverged from this idea, if only to show that our concept was the right direction. And we wanted to use green to reflect the sustainability value of the company. Anything else felt “off-brand.” In the case below, we nailed the logo on the first round and were able to complete the identity design very quickly.

Example of Logo Development

First Round of Logo Concepts for Green Jay Landscaping

How does the design process work? I usually start by writing down keywords that must be incorporated into the design. They will reflect the brand frame, of course, but go a little beyond so they are more aspirational. I will also do some visual research at this point, to get inspiration from images across the Internet (see our post about Niice.com). And then I play around with the typography and experiment with color until it just feels right. Next come sketches of the logo, combined with some vector work in Illustrator until the logo options feel real enough to present to the client. We shoot to present three to five initial logo design options. Sometimes there are more if they are coming very easily. We never want to overwhelm, but we do like to share a variety of looks for our client to react to.

From here, the client chooses one direction. We’ll iterate on that a few times until the logo is finalized. Then it’s time to move on to designing the stationery and marketing collateral. Easy!

See all the posts in this Brand Series »

Infographic: Apple vs. Google

A great side-by-side comparison of two technology giants by Great Business Schools. Interesting to see how they each to certain things more successfully, but both have also had their failures. Most striking is the difference in the perception of security between iOS and Android — Apple is winning that battle. Also, Apple apps makes almost five times the revenue of Google apps with one quarter of the market share! Personally, I am too invested in Apple products to switch. But I do wish the price point would come down a bit. So who do you think is winning?

Apple vs. Google

Working with Images: Hi-Res vs. Lo-Res

Lots of times, we get sent images that are too small, or “lo-res” (short for low-resolution) to use for print. Here’s a helpful guide to understand the difference between using lo-res and hi-res images.

The first step to knowing the difference between high-resolution and low-resolution images is to understand what DPI means. DPI stands for ‘dots per inch’ which is a measure of the individual dots that can be placed in a line within the span of one inch. When viewing an image on your monitor, the dots are referring to “pixels”, or “picture elements”, which are the smallest visual elements (tiny little rectangles) on a display screen. When viewing a printed image, the dots refer to the actual dots of ink on the page. The more dots per inch, the higher-resolution the image. Think of it this way; what would make a clearer image? Ten dots of color per inch or 100 dots per inch?

Lo-res to hi-res

Low-resolution → high-resolution

So, when does an image become high-res?

300 is the magic number! Anything under 300dpi is considered low-res and anything 300dpi or above is considered high-res. 72dpi is the standard for low-res.

Keep in mind…

When you have a seemingly large image (dimension-wise) that is lower-res, the dimensions decrease greatly when bumping up the resolution. For example: If I have an image that is 10×10” at 72dpi and I resize it to 300dpi, the dimensions decrease to 2.4×2.4”.

size-03

Why shouldn’t I just use high-res images all the time?

High-res images are great and designers love them. They’re clear, sharp, beautiful files and when you are printing anything it should always be high-resolution. But believe it or not, there are some reasons to use low-res images.

Internet browsers

The standard resolution for internet browsers is 72dpi, so anything you see online is automatically low-res.

Smaller file size

It makes sense that low-res images are smaller file sizes than high-res images; they have so much less digital information. This means they take up less space, load much quicker, and are easier to send through email.

How do I tell the difference?

If you know how to use Photoshop you can check out an image’s size under Image>Image Size. Otherwise, generally, the larger a file size is, the higher-resolution it will be.

What’s the deal with vector art?

Vector based files are information based, rather than pixel based. They use points, lines, curves and shapes that are based on mathematical equations to produce images. Because they are not made up from pixels, the dots per inch measurement is not applicable for vector files and they can be scaled up to any size without losing quality. Vector files are typically used for line art such as logos, digital illustration and typography, whereas photography is always pixel based.

vector

When in doubt, always send your designer the high-res image.

These can always be cropped down to the correct dimensions and dpi, whereas a low-res image’s resolution cannot be increased any higher than it currently is — once an image size is decreased, that digital information is lost. You cannot create a high-res file from a low-res file.