Category Archives: Branding

Process, Inspiration and Practice for the New Media DesignerI just received the book MTIV: Process, Inspiration and Practice for the New Media Designer by Hillman Curtis I skimmed through it and caught some insightful words:

A common mistake of designers is thinking of themselves only as visual communicators. We’re fortunate to speak the visual language fluently, but we also need to translate literal and thematic messages. In other words, we need to be bilingual. As a designer I need to listen and ask questions… …without (that), I’m as good as blind.

I’ve talked a lot lately about branding myself as a designer, so it was nice to hear what Hillman had to say about it. I came across the part where the author talks about designing his design firm’s website (hillmancurtis inc.) Hillman had some insightful words:

My thought was to design something bold and cutting-edge, so I studied the work of my peers: designers who I thought were doing new and exciting work. Still nothing was working. The designs I turned out fell flat, and every night I went home empty and depressed.

He goes on to say that his wife told him about a poetry conference she went to at which C.K. Williams said that when he’s creatively blocked, he falls in love with a master. He looks back to those who perfected their craft and takes cues from their mastery. For designers, that might be Paul Rand, Saul Bass and many others.

Who are you looking back to, that perfected their craft?

I don’t know too much about logo design, since I focus most of my time with magazine design and web design, although I will try to list some things I’ve learned.

Effective Logos…

  • …are distinctive
  • …are visible
  • …are usable
  • …are memorable
  • …are universal
  • …are durable
  • …are timeless
  • …do not sell, only identifies.
  • …derives its meaning from the quality of what it symbolizes

Here are a two of my more successful logos. I’d be interested to hear your thoughts on branding/logo design. Leave me a comment!


That title isn’t meant to be sarcastic either. I love that the design of Obama’s latest podium front has made the news. Finally, political campaigns are setting a standard in the design world, instead of being the worst of the worst when it comes to design. Obama’s website is the best designed, most standards-compliant and user friendly of any presidential candidate’s website in history (the last two elections). His overall brand is also a cut-above. I don’t think it’s a coincidence that obama’s circle logo resembles a corn field and sunset. Afterall, he did start this campaign in Iowa, the corn state… where he won big. The first time I saw the Obama circle logo was on a large yard sign in Iowa City and directly behind the sign were corn fields.. very interesting.

I think it’s hilarious that people are getting worked up about great marketing and design. We also got worked up about McCain’s lack of great design and color choice – the use of a green backdrop. One design choice was well made and one wasn’t.

The Obama seal is a clever way to brand Obama as a presidential candidate. There were no copyright laws broken. If you look closely, the eagle’s are totally different renderings, the colors and font choices are different. It also doesn’t say “President of the United States”, It says “Obama FOR President”. The repetitive stars also weren’t used from the presidential seal… that’s more than can be said about McCain’s website and its overuse of stars. I think Obama’s designers need to be hired to redesign the white house website, government websites and heck why not the presidential seal. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with beautifull design in a political campaign.

McCain seems to have taken notice of how awesome Obama’s website design was and revamped his whole website a few months ago… before then he had no direct links to his social networking profiles (bad choice to leave this out – maybe that’s why mccain has 9 times fewer facebook supporters than obama who has over a million) I spent the semester researching the presidential candidate’s websites and how to reach young voters with them. I focused on McCain and getting him the young vote through a “students for mccain” website. 

Lastly, I think Obama’s website and overall branding resembles who he is: hopeful, ready for change, different than usual. His website resembles these phrases through his color scheme (not typical red/white/blue), spotlight effect with white highlights around the edge of the page and around photos of people, great typography and attention to detail with his pages for states and people groups (he uses imagery specific to each state and people group). His logo area of the website is very clever – using a photo of him looking up, in a hopeful manner.

What are your thoughts?

I had my senior Visual Communication show on Monday, and it would seem like I have nothing to do. Though, I’ve been working on some freelance work in the past two days. I got some logo sketches done for Putnam County Partners in Prevention and a theme/logo for the MH Film Festival. Check ’em out.

This coalition is a drug abuse prevention program that just started. I will be designing a website, brochure and large banner for them. It all starts with the logo.

Meadow Heights – or maybe just Michael 🙂 had a very focused idea of what they wanted. It makes it easy to design when they have a style and approach in mind. I did go out of my comfort zone to do this. I usually don’t do such illustrative work. Mini-site for this coming soon.

logo design. gecko style .
I finally got to putting the “limber” gecko into my existing gecko mathematics logo. I wanted to appeal to kids by making it look like it’s crawling around… a sense of movement in a still image.


I started out by rastorizing the ‘o’ in gecko
and cutting parts of it out to get the feel of the
gecko crawling through it.


I then did something totally different,

because it’s good try different things.
I used the gecko as an icon. I don’t like this one,
but I can’t say I didn’t try it.


My favorite. Only because the logo will be on the left
of the website so the gecko is crawling into
the webpage, rather than off the page.

“what the heck’s with geck?” continued…

I received valuable feedback on my first try at a gecko. These are my changes, I reversed the color to be dark on the edges and lighter at the center, made the eyes less scary, and made the gecko skinnier with smaller back legs.

On a technical note, I also changed the outline to the pen tool which gave me a consistent line weight and nicer curves (notice the tail)

I was playing with different layers and noticed that the gecko doesn’t look to bad when I just use the outline with the body color layer turned off. Also I liked the solid body color.


original first try


revised, skinnier, cleaner lines, more constrast


outline of gecko


solid color gecko

Korean Math becomes gecKo mathematics
The Korean Math project that I spoke about previously has sort of warped into having it’s own identity. The new name is ‘gecko mathematics” Why, I don’t know. Your guess is as good as mine.

What will happen when a possible sponsor asks what the concept behind the gecko is? We won’t have an answer… unless we say the truth which is,”because the professor’s grandkids like gecko’s.” This situation has confirmed to me the importance of a concept, even if it’s a simple one.

The website design that I presented previously is now programmed, thanks to my 4 hours of work. It is located here.

Korean Math becomes gecKo mathematics
The Korean Math project that I spoke about previously has sort of warped into having it’s own identity. The new name is ‘gecko mathematics” Why, I don’t know. Your guess is as good as mine.

What will happen when a possible sponsor asks what the concept behind the gecko is? We won’t have an answer… unless we say the truth which is,”because the professor’s grandkids like gecko’s.” This situation has confirmed to me the importance of a concept, even if it’s a simple one.

The website design that I presented previously is now programmed, thanks to my 4 hours of work. It is located here.