Category Archives: Branding

$5 logo from Von Glitschka

Once upon a time, this very popular illustrator/designer named Von Glitschka created a website to sell logos for $5. The kicker is that he would only spend 5 minutes on each one and there would be no revisions allowed. It was done out of frustration from what he calls ‘cheap a** clients’.

However, for fans of his, this is a great way to have a cheap piece of ‘art’ from the man himself. After some conversations about his $5 logo website with Jamie Carroll, we came to the conclusion that it was pretty genius.

And.. what do you know? I got one for my birthday, from Jamie.

For an undetermined amount of time, this $5 logo has replaced my prior logo on my personal website/blog (desktop version of the website/blog only).

I couldn’t help but notice a few striking similarities between current GOP candidate websites and Obama’s 2008 campaign website and the current White House website.

Glowing Blue Background

It seems that the new political design trend is going to be glowing backgrounds. Most of the candidate’s sites use a glowing blue background of some sort (see newt.org and michellebachmann.com)

Home Icon & Typography

The designers for Ron Paul’s website must have been inspired by whitehouse.gov because the navigation typography is almost identical. The flag icon on whitehouse.gov links to the homepage, while the home icon on Paul’s site links to the homepage. While not similar in design, the unique idea of using a homepage icon in that particular position is pretty similar given the other similarities.

However, I give props to Ron Paul’s web guys for actually making the navigation real text and not images, like the White House site. To be fair, whitehouse.gov has their full sitemap in real text in the footer.

Right Column Shadows

This one is minor, but I had to mention it because of how similar other elements are between whitehouse.gov and Ron Paul’s website. The right column on both sites are the same exact width as well. Inspired much?

The hokey, ‘look inspired and into the distance’ Photo.

Also known as the 40-year-old virgin portrait look. This is only funny because I really want to imagine the photographer holding up a picture of the Obama 2008 website and directing Bachmann to pose similarly. I feel like she forgot where the camera was one other time too… I kid, I kid!

Is there anything wrong with this?

Of course not. There is no copyright infringement here. Is it funny when you notice it? Yes. Mostly because of how different these candidates are from President Obama in every other way.

Here’s to great design that draws some of it’s inspiration from Obama 2008!

Looking for someone to design your website (or logo)?

I’m your man! Check out my portfolio and get in touch with me. Let’s make your next project awesome!

Just yesterday, I spoke to Lambda Pi Eta, the communication department’s honor society at Truman State University. I was connected to them by fellow Mountain Dew and Twitter addict, Don Krause (@santee). I was über nervous about speaking, as I always am, but I think I overcame that fear.

I talked about my experience with social media as the owner/designer of Creative Improv and why brands need to care about social media.

A few quick notes, I had tweeted to UPS and FedEx 3 times in the last few days (once during my presentation) and hadn’t received a response from them until just now. @FedExRobin responded – you can see her tweet here.

Check out my presentation below. I recorded it a day after I gave the presentation to the folks at Truman.

Since the 2008 presidential election, I have become aware of design in politics and how the quality and effectiveness of the design effects particular candidates.

As designers, we have a lot of responsibility to design for the greater good and not put forth an image (both meanings of the word) that is misleading, untrue or inciting of any negative action. On the opposite end of the spectrum, we have a responsibility to not oversell something or someone, if we want a clear conscience.

Below I’ve outlined a few examples of design that has a played a role in our perception of a the candidate.

A few examples, off the top of my head:

Yes we can… make you think I’m God-incarnate

Overtly and overly optimistic political campaign website for Barack Obama. Did we all really think he was going to be ‘God-incarnate’ and a perfect president (note the glowing blue sky/cloud feel)?

The problem with this website design, as I’m starting to see, is that if I were to design a website for ‘God’ – it would probably look pretty close to this. Same colors. Similar logo. Similar quote in the header (at least the ‘I’m asking you to believe’). This is a problem, because he’s not God, but was pretty much marketed as such.

As I wrote about on this blog in the past – this was a great website design, logo and branding. The best that national politics had ever seen. But my question is: Was it over-selling Obama? Just a bit.

Did we think he would be anything more than a politician with skin on? If we bought into the design/marketing – maybe.

There’s an Alaska-shaped lake in the US, don’tchaknow?

To all you middle school kids who have taken geography, you know this map is NOT accurate. It is outrageously false. I know that Palin’s goal was to express that she was the governor of a state that is very large in comparison to the continental United States. Do you want to highlight something in your career that you only put half your effort toward (Palin resigned before finishing her first term)? Why create something that is false, misleading and very untrue? Clever, maybe – but I don’t see it winning any design awards. This logo opens up the floodgates for more people to question the intelligence of Sarah Palin. Why open that door?

LBJ mushroom cloud commercial

Misleading. Fear-Mongering.

It’s not a direct ‘design’ piece but is marketing and political in nature. The commercial worked and drew on the emotions of the American people. Drawing out the fear of a nuclear war and pointing a finger at Barry Goldwater was the goal of this commercial. It worked, and as Milton Glaser is quoted in this article saying, “And even though you knew it was bullshit, your heart swelled anyway.”

You betcha they’re surveying symbols!

Most recently, this graphic has been the center of debate. I don’t subscribe to the idea that Palin is responsible for the recent Arizona shooting. However, her advertisements and words and those of other talking heads need to be scrutinized when violence against politicians arises. Taking responsibility for your words and actions is a necessity. That means acknowledging when something you say or do is in bad taste, as this graphic was. We learned this as a child – why is it that politicians forget this fundamental rule of responsibility? (Another example is when Sharon Angle’s was quoted about using  ‘second amendment remedies’. That is an incitement of violence and nothing less.)

One explanation of this graphic was that it was simply using ‘surveying symbols’.  Maybe that was the intention, but how many American’s are surveyors and would get this reference? It’s more likely that it would be interpreted as a gun sight. You can’t tell me that the Palin folks didn’t know this is how it would be inferred? After all, it’s the perfect graphical symbol to appeal to hunters and gun rights activists around the country. If it should have been a surveying symbol, shame on the designer for not correctly ‘visually communicating’ a surveying symbol. My guess is that the designer was directed to use a gun cross hair – and they did that effectively. Palin and others needs to be more careful about the graphics they present and the words they use.

Wrapping up

We have all seen political ads, designs and words that over-reach their boundary. The question becomes – how do we know how over-reaching it is? How do we know how much violence something or someone may incite with their words or ads? The answer is: We don’t. This is why politicians and the designers that work for them need to be held to a very high standard. They need to realize how much sway they have with their ‘supporters’ – especially their fringe supporters.

What political ads, designs and words have you heard or seen recently that were inciting violence or simply overselling something?

It’s been almost 6 years since I originally launched StephenEmlund.com. This October, I redesigned my website for the first time ever. I have been surprised how well my website has held up to all the design trends in the last 6 years. Of course, it’s because I made the website very minimalistic. Although orange was so 2005.

This was 2005

Orange was sooo in!

In 2005, orange was sooo in! I featured printmaking on my site back in the day. Just for fun, I've uploaded the whole website as it was in 2005. Click the screenshot above to view it live!

This was 2008 ↓

Website launched in 2006

in 2008, I tweaked the color from orange to teal and added a sweet autograph! I also implemented the new 'border-radius' that only worked in certain browsers. This website was used for my senior portfolio in Visual Communication.

This is today ↓

Launched October 2010

Launched October 2010. Kept the same teal, but added live feed from blog and a sweet jQuery slider.

Dynamic portfolio page

Dynamic portfolio page - the left navigation dynamically loads all the projects that relate. Click the screenshot above to see the portfolio page.

Creative Improv started over a year ago as a way for Michael Goldsmith and I to work together and provide web, print and identity design to clients. It has been a joy to continue to work closely with ‘Goldie’. It feels like a dream come true, to be crazy busy with design for such a wide range of projects as fellow artists, bands, museums, a math curriculum, and even a bridal shoppe.

We’ve had business cards since the beginning, but we’ve just now got letterhead and envelopes. Check them out below!

A technical note – we used OvernightPrints.com for our printing and everything came out perfectly. The color was spot on and the ability to do a full bleed on the envelope was freeing!

Letterhead and envelope for Creative Improv

Business Cards for Stephen Emlund at Creative Improv

Photo by Stephen Emlund in Des Moines, IA

Since it seems like my six-part series on the 2008 presidential election has disappeared within my blog, I wanted to re-highlight it since I spent hours researching various aspects of that election.

This series focuses on the websites of Sen. John McCain and then-Sen. Barrack Obama. It was a culmination of a semester of research in an Advertising course. While I was writing these posts (in the Fall of 2008), I was also producing many 30 second ads (Motion Graphics) supporting the Obama Campaign. These videos will posted in the next blog post.

Michael and I at CreativeImprov.com just recently completed a project for PublishtheGecko.com and GeckoMath.com. This project was inspired by Jamie Varon and her popular website TwitterShouldHireMe.com Jamie gained publicity from CNN, Fortune Magazine and many others for her straightforward approach to finding a job. I first found out about her by Dr. Grow, an education professor at Truman State and our client for this project. I’m now friends with Jamie on Facebook and Twitter and she thought it was cool that she inspired this project. She now runs her own design business, Shatterboxx Media and is living in Italy (LUCKY!).

Three years ago I was introduced to Gecko Math (which is a Korean math curriculum that is being translated into English). At that time, I illustrated the gecko and designed the logo and original website. I worked with a great programmer, Ryan Herriman to complete geckomath.com.

Recently, Creative Improv was approached to extend their brand and directly market gecKo mathematics to publishers. The end result was PublishtheGecko.com, seen below.

PublishtheGecko.com
New PublishtheGecko.com Website!

gecko logo

original gecko math website
Original Gecko Mathematics website

A few months ago, when Creative Improv was in it’s infancy, the Parallax View project came our way at just the right time. I had wanted to work on this project since high school. I knew Ben & Seth in high school and thought it would be cool to do a website for them back then (before they were Parallax view).  I believe we even talked about me doing the website. I also received an email two years ago from the band asking if I would do some work – Sadly it got lost in my email and I never read it.

This time, everything seemed to work out. With Michael’s and my experience designing and marketing for the Church, this was a perfect project for us. Check out the Parallax View Band website that we launched a few weeks ago! Michael’s initial design ideas, sketches, endless creative direction, keeping me on task, writing skills and client relations is and always will be priceless to Creative Improv’s design process. This and every other project I’ve worked on with him always turns out a zillion times better because of what he brings to the table!

Check out our design process for this project. Interested in Creative Improv?? then become a fan on facebook or check us out on our official website.

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The first step in this project was to sketch out logo ideas.

We ended up deciding on this logo because it was the most memorable at a very small and very large scale.

We ended up deciding on this logo because it was the most memorable at a very small and large scale.

The website sketches came next, incorporating the logo's colors and style. This first sketch used a left narrow column and the header was a bit more crowded than what we ended up going with.

The website sketches came next, incorporating the logo's colors and style (for these, incorporation of color was in my head 🙂 ). This first sketch used a left narrow column and the header was a bit more crowded than what we ended up going with. These black/white pencil sketches help decide on layout without the distraction of color to give a false sense of completeness.

This sketch was the base for the final website, though still a bit different in the final implementation. We used the divine proportion to decide how wide each column should be. I know, how ironic, since this is a Christian band. :-)

This sketch was the base for the final website, though still a bit different in the final implementation. We used the divine proportion to decide how wide each column should be. I know, how ironic, since this is a Christian band. 🙂

The final website: featuring content from various social media and a brand new blog for the band to keep in touch with their fans. The most dynamic aspect is the MySpace Music Player, the Flickr feed and YouTube feed.

The final website: featuring content from various social media and a brand new blog for the band to keep in touch with their fans. The most dynamic aspect is the MySpace Music Player, the Flickr feed and YouTube feed. Check it out now!

The CD was one of the funnest parts of this project. I've only designed one other CD in my life, unless you count the fake CD for portfolio purposes. The typography, textures, photos and illustrations just came together nicely. It did take some thinking to get the hierarchy just right between the title and logo for the cover.

The CD was one of the funnest parts of this project. I've only designed one other CD in my life (for Truman's Jazz Ensemble, which I performed with as well). The typography, textures, photos and illustrations just came together nicely. It did take some thinking to get the hierarchy just right between the title and logo for the cover.

The Poster was the very last piece to complete. It matched the website header nicely.

The poster was the very last piece to complete. It matched the website header nicely.

Design is the silent ambassador of your brand.

—Paul Rand

I think this is important because your brand consists of the quality of your product or service not how great the design of your brochure, website or packaging is. A great design can only go so far, while a great brand must be the guiding force.