I’ll be the first to admit that I have a hyper-critical spirit when it comes to aesthetics. That’s a good thing, riiiight? I mean, my role as a graphic designer is to make things/ideas look good and function well. (I can probably work on my spiritedness… you’re right.)🤓 As I’ve talked with and worked with a wide variety of clients over the years, I’ve learned that good aesthetics might not be a priority for folks for a variety of reasons, and it might not be as simple as “they just have bad taste”.
It might be some or all of the following…
They don’t have the budget to hire a graphic designer
They don’t realize the impact that professional design can have on their audience
They haven’t set aside the time to hire a designer because they are bombarded with other responsibilities
They rely on templates and mass-produced designs because they’re “good enough” for what they need
They were duped by a person on Fiverr claiming to be a graphic designer because they own a Mac and a Creative Cloud subscription
Once in an interview, I was handed an annual report that I had done a few years prior for another organization. “This is the level of design that I want for our stuff. This is what I want.”, he said.
Surprised, I laughed and said, “Well, then, we’re on the same page… because I did that piece.”
He also showed me the pieces they had paid someone on Fiverr to do and vowed they were ready to move forward and never look back. The work was overcharged, the turn-around time was quadruple what it should have been, and the quality was maybe a D+ (if graded on a curve). It saddened me (for both parties involved) that this Fiverr person would promote themselves as a “graphic designer”, take payment, and deliver the level of work I was holding in my hands.
Sometimes, all you might need is D+ level work. But, you’re a professional. Your organization is professional. Your business is professional. So shouldn’t your mission and branding reflect who you are? I vote a spirited “yes”. 🙋🏻♀️⚡️
It’s the first week of 2023 and I’m sitting here at my kitchen counter making goals for the year. I’ll be the first to admit (and my wonderful and patient husband will be the first to agree) that I despise planning and making goals. Tell me today that we are taking a cross-country trip to Montana tomorrow, and I’m in! Don’t tell me we’re doing it next month and all the things I have to do to prepare for it.🤪🙅🏻♀️
But… I’m finally realizing (at 40-something) that goals are important for success and intentionality is key in creating real change. (Come on… some of us are slower learners than others!😆) So, here are a few of my goals (personal and business-related) so far…
Weight train (of any sort) at least 3x per week (mid-life flab has hit, y’all)
Take a brisk 20-30 minute walk at least 4x per week
Empty my inbox by Monday of every week
Invite someone over for dinner 1x per month (go ahead and list these out through December)
Lock in 5 annual/impact report contracts
Feel free to borrow any of these and make them yours. (And thanks, Jon Acuff and Matty, for the motivating boot to do this!) That last goal is one I’m extra excited about. I’ve always enjoyed doing layout and design of multi-page books, but over the past several years, I’ve fallen in love with, specifically, annual reports. It seems early to start thinking about a project that usually isn’t given thought until September or October, but how great would it be to go ahead and get the planning in motion for that, I’m guessing, looming and daunting project. And, you’d get me one step closer to meeting my goal! 🎉😄
Hit me up today if you’d like to talk further about your annual report for 2023. September will be here before you know it! Let’s get things in motion now for a super successful 2023 annual report!
I’ve learned so much doing work with the World Wildlife Fund. They provide funding and resources to implement conservation practices for landowners… something I’ve found myself puttering through life and not giving much thought about the work that goes into preserving this great planet of ours. This recent project was a resource guide chocked full of conservation programs for landowners in Montana, specifically rangelands.
I immensely enjoy coming up with solutions for displaying information in a, hopefully, less-than boring way. See that table down there? Mmmmmm. I know, I know… Imma weirdo.
It’s always fun to be hired by a client who you’ve long looked up to and valued the good they are doing in the world. I’ve been blessed to have worked with some incredible organizations over the years who are doing some great things. The World Wildlife Fund is one of those clients. Recently, I’ve had the privilege of working on the Northern Great Plains Donor Report for WWF. I really enjoy working on these types of projects. I become immersed in the content and learn so much about the subject in the process of the design and layout of the piece.
Music has been a part of my life for as long as I can remember. I’m grateful to my parents for instilling a love of music within my brother and I at very young ages. As a four-year-old, I can remember Mom always playing records in the house… Elvis, The Beatles, BJ Thomas, Glen Campbell, The Four Tops, The Temptations. It was extremely unusual for there not to be music playing inside and outside of the house. On my outdoor adventures, I would hear Don Williams, Buck Owens, Willie, Waylon, and Johnny among the sounds coming from my dad’s shop. Oh, and Ronnie Milsap… and Eddie Rabbitt! I loooooved Eddie Rabbitt. And A Rainy Night.
Couple all of that (seemingly-unrelated-to-this-blog-post-information) with my ten years of piano lessons, my drumming and guitar-playing husband, our playing in a band together for ten years, my bass-playing-and-singing-twelve-year-old-daughter, and you’ll understand why I was thrilled to be a small part of this Cool Thang that Keef Made.
During some of those ten years I was taking piano lessons, I knew a kid in church youth group who played guitar in the youth band. He was that kid who was freaky good at playing anything he could get his hands on. His name was Keith Groover.
Fast forward a bunch of years, circa 1999, to when I was dating my now-husband, Matt. We were hanging out one afternoon and he said, “I need to run by my buddy’s house and pick up __________.” I can’t remember the details, obviously, but it was some sort of music gear. And whadduya know… that buddy was Keith! I hadn’t seen Keith in years! In the years to follow, Keith and Matt would form a couple of bands and record some music together.
Fast forward again through a bunch of years (weddings, births, bands, concerts, careers, etc)… Keith contacted me about creating the logo for a new electronic instrument that he was working on. He sent me a video showing how it worked and what it sounded like… I was instantly intrigued, especially since over the past couple of years, I’d kind of gotten into the whole EDM wave. You know, that genre that’s kind of like Ronnie Milsap’s stuff, except the exact opposite….? 🤷🏻♀️
We worked through some ideas and initially I missed the mark. Here are the lead-in pages to the first couple of logos I presented…
I was digging the first one, and had a hunch that would be the one Keith would pick. To my surprise, he liked the second one better, but was wondering if there was a way to make it a little less modern. I felt I was missing the mark, so I had Keith create a Pinterest board to show even more ideas of the tone he was looking for.
This helped us narrow some ideas down even further. And he suggested dipping the bottom down to create more of an obvious wing effect on the second one. I added some framing along the bottom to give it more of an aeronautical and finished look, and we went with gold and black to give it a more classic and established feel.
Keith was pleased with the finished look and I was pleased to have helped an old friend out in the process. There aren’t many things that bring me more joy than watching talented friends / family channel their talents into functional ways that allow them to publicly share those gifts with the world. Y’all, this is a freaky cool instrument. Get in line to get one for yourself, your kids, your mom, your dad… you can pay them back for all those years of piano lessons they put you through. 🙌🏻🎵⚡️ Set to release early 2019. TheGlide.cc
I’m long overdue in getting this post up. I’m actually long overdue in getting any post up. Can’t believe it’s been over a year since I last posted. 2017 was a rough one, but we survived. Seemed like every corner we turned, there was something to have to deal with and attempt to remedy immediately, or just sit in the middle of it and wait it out. 2017, be gone with yosef! 😂 But… God is good and leaning on his strength over my own is something I’m slowly learning to do. It doesn’t come easy for me, regardless of how many times he’s proven himself faithful in the big and small things in my life. And once again, those things that reared their ugly heads last year, he saw us through them and/or is continuing to see us through. He’s always always faithful. (Oh! And we’re expecting a Carter baby in April! Whaaa? Yeah, we’re still picking ourselves up off the floor over that one, but we can not wait to meet him! Please get here fast, April! But only after I have enough time to move my office to the garage so that Charlie Carter has a room. 😂)
Fuzzy Bison business was incredible last year and I had lots of new logo clients from out in California via Christine McDermott from Great Oak Circle. I’ll do some logo study posts on those to come. I also had some opportunities to work on some painting projects, which were much needed breaks from sitting in front of the Mac all day. It’s a slow learning process especially since I have to tackle it in my “free” time, but I’m learning and loving every minute that I get to wet a brush and make cool things for folks. I’m so grateful for masters of the trade like Norma Jeanne Maloney and Sean Starr who have been so gracious to me in lending their knowledge of the craft. You guys are super special! ⚡️💕
I also wrapped up the 2017 season with the Southeast Gassers. Although, I’m no longer doing work for them, it was another great season of producing cool posters (posted below), and I wish them the best for the future! Just like the season prior, the posters gave a “face” to each event and each design was a quick way to push out advertising via Instagram and Facebook in addition to providing a physical promo piece and a collectible souvenir. Check them out this year if you get a chance! Their season begins April 14 in Shelby, NC. Good luck, kids!
If you’ve seen my About page, then you know that I grew up around fast things…specifically fast cars…and specifically fast cars at the local circle dirt track. While I appreciated all that those fellas poured into their favorite pastime, I was never a big fan. I was just a fan of my dad, and his cool car. And I always liked getting dirty. So it worked out great for me.
Most Saturday nights during race season, that’s where you would find me, my brother, and my mom and dad…at various dirt tracks in South Carolina and Georgia. And on any given Sunday afternoon during race season, you could bet that our fifty-inch Sears® front projection television (another lucky owner’s is pictured below) would be busy broadcasting NASCAR (after wrestling was over, of course).
My dad and brother were big, big, BIG racing fans. But, only fans of circle-track stock car racing.
And certainly no dogs and horses. Nurp.
And most certainly, no drag racing. Psssh.
Knowing this, you can imagine my shock and surprise back last year when I began to hear chatter and excitement from them about this drag racing group out of North Carolina called The Southeast Gassers Association(SGA). I had no idea what a gasser was (in fact, it made me chuckle every time they said the word), and I couldn’t quite get over the fact that they were so jacked up about drag racing. Drag racing! What?! I felt like I needed to shake them. “Dad. Stephen. Do you hear yourselves?!”
But it didn’t take long before they educated me a bit on The Southeast Gassers and I began to understand why they had “crossed over”. One especially fun fact is that the founder of the SGA, Quain Stott, comes from a long line of drag racing champions and is an IHRA ProMod champion himself.
So, I quickly learned that this wasn’t any ol’ group of drag racers with big, ugly mis-matched cars. You know the ones. The ones that look like your grandma’s green Monte Carlo, except it’s found a new life as a metallic purple Monte Carlo…with…flames…from an orange Sharpie®.
No, dawg…these cars are…
Well…just have a look…
Sooooo rad, right?! The kicker is, they have to be period correct, following the strictest gasser rules in the world based off the 1967 rule book. I don’t know all of the ins and outs about what that means exactly, so check out their website if you’d like to know. (I just know it’s way cooler and more fun than that metallic purple Monte Carlo that used to be your grandma’s.)
Despite how intriguing all of this is, Quain and the boys running the Southeast Gasser show had just been having a difficult time getting the word out and needed a little marketing help. My brother, Stephen, stepped in to help spread the word, and recruited me to help with the designs for various marketing pieces. We quickly got to work researching racing posters and paraphenalia of the 1960’s. This was extremely interesting and super fun. I love digging into old ads/posters/type/images/etc., so, given the task of mimicking that particular look was all up my alley.
The first 11x17 poster we did was for the finals race in November last year. Eight posters would follow for the 2016 season (pictured below sequentially). These seemed to really get folks excited about the upcoming races. They gave a “face” to each event and each poster design was a quick way to push out advertising via Instagram and Facebook in addition to providing a physical promo piece and a collectible souvenir. Each time we completed a poster design, Stephen had 250 printed to sell at the events and to spread around town prior to the event. My dad (and sometimes my mom) drove tons of miles distributing posters to area businesses to help spread the word. We also set up a Dropbox for folks who were kind enough to get the files printed on their own and distribute them within their area. It takes a village, y’all!
Stephen has done an incredible job reigniting the buzz and sparking folks to spread the word. All of this hustling has paid off, too. The proof is in the pudding! In the past year, the Southeast Gassers Instagram following has grown from 303 to just over 9700. Facebook followers have soared from 4500 to nearly 20,000, and the number of active cars/participants and cars being built currently totals over 100. (Take a minute right now to go give them a follow and keep pushing those numbers up!) [Update since this post was written…IG followers - 19,800 | Facebook followers - over 57,000]
It’s been a fun year diving into this stuff with the Southeast Gassers and getting to work alongside my brother on stuff that takes us back to our roots…even though it’s on asphalt instead of dirt, and even though the track is straight as an arrow and has zero curves. It’s still four wheels going crazy fast.
So, come on out to the Greer Dragway in Greer, SC on November 5 and witness in-person what I’ve been babbling on and on about. I promise, you’ll have a good time. (Even if you’re technically only a horse or dog racing fan.)
I always present my logo clients with a design brief consisting of 15 or so questions which helps give me an idea of what they are looking for, and it also helps them possibly think of things they hadn’t yet considered. Obviously, the more detailed and in-depth the answers are, the better I am able to hone in on a solution for their logo.
John and his dad, Michael, started making amplifiers together a few years back and that’s how the company, Granger Amplifiers, was born. Guys like those guys freaking blow my mind…my little, non-engineering, non-mechanical, non-lefty brain. Guys like my dad, and my brother, and my grandpa, and my uncles. I’m not sure how I managed to come from such a long line of mechanically-minded-fellers and ended up with not even a tiny inkling of that technical prowess. Dangit.
I atleast have resources and know who to call when I truly botch something up and need to fix it.
So, back to Granger Amps…here’s a little backstory and logo specifics provided by John in the brief:
Granger Amplifiers is a small amp production company bringing quality, handmade audio products to musicians and music lovers alike. They are focused on delivering the best experience through clean designs and superior sound and tone…blending the best of old school simplicity and the latest technology, resulting in a unique, yet approachable product.
Target Market: High-end audiophiles and musicians, both studio and traveling.
(Guesstimated to be mainly males in their 20’s and up.)
Important Logo Attributes: Attention to Detail / Quality / Clean / Simple / Iconic / Unique
Imagery: Lightning bolt and/or symbols from electronic schematics
Colors: Red or royal blue
John, on his dad’s interests and beliefs: My father is a huge NASA nut and of 70’s Progressive Rock (Genesis, Yes, Emerson Lake and Palmer) and I’ve always thought of him as being ahead of his time (hence the Nikola Tesla interest) and I want our company and logo to reflect those things. He believes that things were made with much more pride and class in decades past and we want to bring that back.
Fun fact! Michael’s best friend was Ambrosia’s keyboard player, Christopher North. Back in the early 70’s, Michael hand-built his own synthesizer and the guys in the band caught wind of it and asked him to record on their first album. He created custom sounds for them to use and is actually playing on two tracks on the album!
So, I centered in on the lightning bolt and knew that it was going to have to take precedence in the logo. But I felt the challenge before me of marrying the fluid/unbridled feel of the 70’s with the clean/simple/high-end image John was desiring to project. His love for the lightning bolt gave me hope that we could “pay homage” to his dad’s love for the 70’s…and still reflect the clean and simple attributes he favored by choosing the perfect font for GRANGER. The lightning bolt is also similar to the zig-zag type marks in the electronic schematics, so we could somewhat “kill two birds with one stone”, here.
The “N” is (conveniently enough, for this purpose) the center of GRANGER. You can make all kinds of meanings out of this, but the simplest is that it’s just the core…the heart…the springboard of why and how John and Michael do what they do. (It also works out for us that it’s aesthetically pleasing to the eye. Boom.)
So…here we have it:
I presented it to John, and he and the family loved it. They loved it until…well, let’s back up a minute…
One thing that I have never thought to include on the design brief is this: “If you are a brand new company, have you researched your company name for any duplicates in your market?”
Why have I never included this?
(Any designers reading this, feel free to chime in here. Do you have it on your brief? It seems logical. I just never had it on there for some reason. Doh.)
But, in this instance, had I included this simple question, I could’ve saved myself and John and his family tons of time. Needless to say, it is now part of my design brief. And if you are a designer reading this, take heed. Learn from my mistake. Make it part of yours. It is a critical question to ask.
So, after presenting the logo to John, his sister Google’d Granger Amplifiers. Yep. You guessed it. There’s another Granger Amplifiers that was here before we were.
Down in Alabama, so….name change.
So, John came back with a couple of options for a new, non-duplicated name:
We both agreed that Elberon was it. Elberon is the name of the street that Michael lived on growing up. So, it was another super fun way to pay homage to his past.
I didn’t feel like working a lightening bolt into ELBERON was going to work like it did for us with GRANGER. We got lucky with the center of that one being an N that also doubled nicely as a lightening bolt. I knew the lightening bolt was still the answer though because I knew what John wanted to project. We just had to figure out a new approach with this new name.
The word Elberon has a soft phonetic flow. Go ahead. Say it. See? Now say, Granger. It’s more structured, right? More rigid. Hard. (Don’t read too much into it…it’s the sound of that L. L’s always soften things up a bit. Llama. Lollipop. Leotard. Lorelei. Lallapalooza. Lemongrass. Lily. Lincoln Logs. Loincloth. Errrr. You get it.
Because the feel of the word was just different overall, I felt a script type instead of a tough sans-serif would work well. I experimented with working the lightening bolt off of the L, but it just didn’t feel natural, so I played with working it into a semi-understroke of the word. It flowed off the end like an electrical cord of sorts…and naturally flowed into a lightening shape. I gave it a “fatness” and “curviness” to help deliver that 70’s feel. And AMPLIFIERS had a perfect place to sit, centered between the bolt’s edge and the left side of the E.
John and his family loved it. I was thrilled that they were thrilled, and I was a better designer for having walked down this discovery road (Elberon Street) with them.
Spicy Puppy Studios is a brand new music production conglomerate specializing in audio production for film, television, worship, with 5.1-7.1 surround sound and spacialization capabilities.
Mark, the owner/founder of Spicy Puppy Studios, needed some help with his logo…here it is as it existed on LoopCommunity.com
So, he knew exactly what he wanted his new, non-emojified logo to be…”What if it was a puppy with a pepper head? You know…you know how a puppy’s head looks kinda like a pepper?” Hmmmm. I was up for the challenge. I mean, I’ve made a mountainous sunset out of a tooth, so I can swing a puppy-headed pepper!
Obviously, when a client has a firm grasp on what they are wanting in a logo, it cuts out some otherwise critical pieces of certain steps in the development process. The amount of research needed is cut considerably because instead of coming up with a logo from scratch, there’s a base there from which to work. And it’s already something the client is passionate about. This is usually a good place to be…unless the client’s idea is less than favorable. You know, as in, it’s just not a good idear. Then, it’s important to convince them otherwise and come up with something that will serve them better. (How exactly that is done is an entirely separate post…I’ll file that one away for later.)
So, my base with Spicy Puppy was a puppy head resembling a pepper. That’s already super fun. Right? Let’s keep it here. No need to change anything. But not a banana pepper (too fat and long…plus, it’s not spicy). And not a bell pepper (too short and fat…again, not spicy). Not even a chili pepper (too skinny and long).
Habanero…thaaaaat’s the pepper we’re looking for here. (So, I did have to do a little pepper research…and some puppy head research.)
I’m not an illustrator (as evident in those pepper tracings you just witnessed). I don’t even play one on T.V. When I have illustration needs, I hire my illustrator buddies. (#AlwaysSupportYourBuddies) But, simple illustrations, shapes and stuff, I can usually hang. And if I get in a bind, I call in the big guns. For puppy-pepper-head, though, I worked it out myself. I did it, Mom!
So in the initial stages, I thought he’d end up with a body to go along with his cute little head. But after getting into it, and knowing that the head would have to translate as a head while also translating as a pepper, attaching it to a body just seemed superfluous and confusing. But, I also couldn’t have it looking like a floating head. After tossing around some options, I decided to use a shadow of sorts to anchor him.
Since this logo will be used on the web 99% of the time, and most probably never embroidered, I decided to add a subtle shadow along the bottom of his head/pepper for some visual interest. And since it’s mostly used on Loop Community, I changed the green on the stem to match the green that Loop Community uses on their logo-encompassing-circle.
And Mark suggested making his eye a bit “cuter” and less “beady”.
Boom. That made it!
While there are no plans for an apparel line just yet, I think it’d make for some pretty sweet swag!
“I absolutely LOVE my Spicy Puppy logo! Carla took the time to get to know my target audience and my needs, and the spirit of my company. She supplied us with all the formats we needed and even did a little education, explaining the application of each format. Well done!”
So, last week obviously didn’t start out as I had planned. (This can happen from time-to-time, yeah? Yurp.) So, long-funny-story short, I got my very own ambulance ride to the hospital around 3am last Tuesday morning. (Just a heads up. They’ll take you there when you complain of chest pain in addition to numerous textbook heart attack symptoms such as pain in your neck, shoulders, arms, back; nausea; cold sweats; feeling faint; uncomfortable breathing; etc.)
I was released a few hours later when all the blood work, chest x-rays, and EKGs came back clear.
“Everything is fine with your heart. It looks GREAT, actually.”
“Inflamed Chest Cartilage” was to blame for my little “episode”. It’s something that I’ve been aware of for the past couple of years, but it’s never presented itself in “attack” form…ever. Lawzie. So…that was weird. Crazy weird. But I’ll know for next time to just wait 8 minutes and pop 800mg of Motrin instead of having Matty call the bus, and giving him a heart attack in the process. Wacka wacka.
That little venture Tuesday morning threw my entire week off. I was fatigued all week, missed my morning workouts, and just couldn’t seem to get it together, in general. My week was severely thrown off-kilter.
And I hate it when that happens.
But… sometimes, when things don’t go as planned, it opens us up to allow opportunity for better things to happen.
This often occurs as I work through logo projects with clients. Last year, I knocked out a logo for my friend, Carrie. This year, her husband, Chris, contacted me about doing a logo for his new home inspections business, Appalachian Inspections, in Western North Carolina. I love Carrie…I love Western North Carolina…so I figured Chris and I would hit it off just fine with his project.
Chris had a working idea of what he was wanting in a mark for his business. He had sketched out a few ideas, but just couldn’t land on anything he liked…
He knew he wanted an “A” to be represented. He thought working it into replacing the “A” in “Appalachian” could possibly be a solution. He also liked the idea of working an A-frame house into the “A” since A-frame houses are prevalent in Western North Carolina. I was diggin’ this idea of his. (A-frame houses are cool, y’all. I never really paid much attention to them, but I think, like anything else, they just have to be given a fair chance to make their statement in the world. That’s right. Look at that green one! Mmmmm.)
So, let’s sit here for a minute. Most often, allowing a letter to be the mark (symbol) in a logotype (word in the logo) is not a favorable solution. It can be messy and can lose it’s luster on a small scale. It also locks the client into having to use a logo that doesn’t have a stand-alone mark. It always has to be supported by the logotype when used in any application. This can present problems at times. But…there are times when it can work, and work well. But in those cases, the logotype is usually short in length.
See? They’re short. So, they work. Imagine a long word, let’s say “Appalachian”, for instance, on a business card…and the “A” is a symbol such as a house. (Okay, okay…an A-frame house since we’re here.) Of course, as the word shrinks in size to fit on the card, the symbol (the “A”) must shrink proportionally. Uh oh…now we have a mess. And when we hand over our fancy new biz card to a potential client, they’re going to be holding it at arm’s length (if they’re approaching 40 or already over it), or smooshing it up to their face (if they’re a young whipper-snapper) as they strain and try to figure out what exactly they are seeing on that “A”. That’s embarrassing. No one has time for that in their lives. And whether he had time for it or not, I didn’t want Chris to have to deal with a logo that was going to treat him poorly. Logos should always treat people nice. Yeah, they should.
So, instead, I worked with the “A” and the “I” together to create a monogram for “Appalachian Inspections”, but still gave the shape the necessary treatment to subtly resemble an A-frame structure. Chris was very pleased with the result and is now happy to present his business card to anyone…anyone under the age of 40, or over the age of 40.
I love making people happy. It’s a great, great thing to do. It’s especially fun and rewarding when the outcome is so much more than what they imagined when they started those first initial sketches during their planning phase.
So, don’t be bummed the next time your plans seem to go awry. Don’t close the door on a potentially great thing. You might miss out on something greater.