Heart of Sharing with United Way: How Can a Designer Help?

Day of Caring / Heart of Sharing Last Thursday, I volunteered with nearly 90 other creative professionals with United Way’s Day of Caring/Heart of Sharing Day. Designers, web developers, marketing specialists, photographers, writers and PR specialists were partnered with Portland area non-profits to give free, personalized advice to help them achieve their marketing goals. The sessions were 90-minutes long and each non-profit was assigned a team of creatives to help them. This was the first time I participated, but there were many professionals who had volunteered in the past, and this was the event’s twelth year. I wasn’t sure what could be accomplished in such a short time, but it was exciting to help prioritize a strategy for these local groups. Winter Kids I was assigned to work with Winter Kids. Although they have enough grant money and sponsorships to be able to afford well-designed printed materials, they were looking for ideas on how reach more people. Winter Kids focuses… Continue Reading »

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Rebranding Blackwater: Your Brand is Much More than Your Name & Logo

Blackwater’s reputation and brand Blackwater is a private security and military company that has won numerous government contracts to support the US military. While fulfilling their contracts in Iraq, they ended up under hostile fire and also inflicting harm on innocent Iraqi civillians. Many remember, with a shudder, hearing about several of Blackwater’s stand-offs and skirmishes that led to fatal shootings in 2007. With a history like that, it’s understandable why Blackwater would want to start over with a new brand. The name Blackwater has become tainted, and is now synonomous with all of the distasteful practices that surround the war in Iraq and President Bush’s time in office. Blackwater is renamed Xe Blackwater had already made some adjustments to its logo that lessened the look of the bear in the cross-hairs. But now it has completely renamed itself as Xe. It has ditched the bear paw print and replaced it with a very tech-looking typography-only logo. It has also… Continue Reading »

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Appropriate Design: When It's Better to Think Inside the Box

Like many graphic designers, at some point I’ve probably promoted my services as  “unique.” I often promise to deliver “creative” solutions. But sometimes we need to build on people’s expectations and design in ways that are appropriate, rather than just doing something different. I thought about this today as I was walking home from work. I was walking by an old brownstone-type building that is on a historic block in Portland. These old buildings are beautiful, but also probably difficult to maintain. This is the sign I saw attached to the broken handrail on the steps going to the front door. It is a lovely handmade sign. With legible, hand-done typography and even a nice border. The purple ribbon is especially beautiful. All this would be great for an invitation or a welcome sign, but it’s not very effective as a warning sign. Yes, I’m picking on this poor little sign. But the point is that sometimes you need to… Continue Reading »

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How to Keep your Brand Looking Fresh

In my last post, I wrote about the importance of consistency in branding. However, I want to take the time to also talk about ways to keep your identity and branding from looking stale. Probably the most important thing to keep in mind is that your brand is a living entity and will experience growth and change. The key is to have enough elements remain consistent that you can play with other elements. Timeless brands are like timeless fashions A good analogy is how individuals wear their clothes and style their hair. There are some people who are always up-to-date with fashion: if you first met them in 1982 and they were wearing parachute pants, you may not be surprised to see them in 1992 wearing an oversized flannel shirt. In contrast, there are some people who have a timeless style. They purchase classic clothes, and are never very trendy. A third group is those folks who seem stuck in… Continue Reading »

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Why Consistency Is So Important to Branding

You’ve probably heard it before, but in case you haven’t: it’s important to be consistent with your branding to have it be most effective. What does consistency mean? From a designer’s perspective, it means: Using the same business name, logo, and/or logotype. Typesetting the name and other elements in a fixed fashion. Choosing a couple of typefaces and using them all the time. Read these tips about working with fonts. Choosing a corporate color, or color palette and using them as the dominant color scheme throughout your materials—printed or online. Using consistent visual elements across media. Some examples are: always using a certain style of photography; or always setting quotations in Garamond Italic; or always have one large color block at the top of the page. Creating “lock ups” for your elements. This means, for example, a certain way of setting the logo + tagline. These groupings become fixed. Creating design systems that are similar throughout all of your materials…. Continue Reading »

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