Tag: "graphic design"

A peek at Stokefire’s latest brand identity work:

One of DARPA’s [Ed: a client] strategic thinkers started up her own firm called Foxfire. We’ll post detailed information and back-story about the project another time – but we figured that given our recent silence we owed you a quick peek at the recently approved ID Kit! Til then… Enjoy!

(And if you’re a senior business executive or retired general or admiral looking for one of the best advisors and speech writers in the world? Get in touch with Courtney at Foxfire Strategies ASAP.)

The Difference Between Good Designers and Great Designers

Posted by Tate Linden


Are you a good designer or a great designer?

No… Wait. Don’t answer that until you get to the end.

There seems to be a common belief that any designer can become great if they just work hard enough on their technique. Most of our design schools are built on this very premise. And of course there’s Tippy the Turtle who remains infamous (long after most have forgotten what art program he represented) because many bought into it.

I don’t believe it.

I find that in most of the interviews I’ve had with design school grads and even journeyman art directors, their big moment seems to be when they show me their mad skillz when it comes to using Adobe Photoshop or Illustrator. Or maybe it’s their charcoal technique. They’re usually truly excellent at one of these, mind you, so they’re justified in bragging a bit.

But none that went this route got a job offer, because in our world that’s not what commercial design is about.

Of course a designer must ensure that their design is strong technically before it goes into production. That’s a given. But isn’t it more important that the design is strong conceptually before advancing beyond sketch stage? A designer who doesn’t understand how to read a creative brief and develop a concept that not only fits within it, but can expand or enhance the effectiveness of the entire campaign or brand identity? Well.. that’s a designer that doesn’t work here.

And a designer that can’t stand up for what matters (at least once) with a client, creative director, or professor? You’re probably not seen as a designer, you’re seen as a tool. Most likely a paintbrush, but if you have other definitions that fit, maybe try ’em on for size.

Pay attention to how your peers, bosses, and clients discuss your work… I’m betting that what’s true here at Stokefire may be true elsewhere:

Good designers are praised for their technique, great designers for their impact.

So, which are you? And how do you know?

DARPA Wins Logo Award, Stealthily

2011 MarCom Award Winner

We just learned that our DARPA logo work received an Honorable Mention from the MarCom Awards. We’re surprised and honored by the recognition. We figured that without seeing the logo in action (e.g., transitioning from on-white to on-black as is shown in the video below) it’d get lost in the herd.

It didn’t, and for that we’re giving thanks. Though we can’t seem to find any mention of the award online…

Congratulations to DARPA, and to the members of Stokefire’s very own design team:

Graphic Designer: Jonelly Sharp
Art Director: Randy Rodriguez
Art Director: Kaitlyn Wells
Creative Director: Tate Linden

Want to see the story behind the brand identity and the challenge we faced? Check out this live markup narrated by the boss:


Other live markups have been done for The Stokefire Logo and Think Harder. Concrete.


Happenings in Advertising, Branding, and Design

1. It was a big thing on all of our minds this week and last week. Here’s a great way to remember the good times: Twin Tower Cameos (via The Inspiration Room)

2. It’s been a long time since the side braids! Real Wendy Takes Star Turn in Wendy’s Advertising  (via Ad Age)

3. Well Toyota is definitely being creepy. Excuse me while I stick my foot in your face. (via Adweek)

4. Everyone loves a rebrand, especially when just about EVERYTHING is included! Warburtons’ Complete Package (via Brand New)

5. Ever wonder who’s behind the scenes of some of those awesome movie websites, such as Rise of the Planet of the Apes or Mars needs Moms? It’s this guy: Andreas Shabelnikov – Check out an Interview with him (via Web Designer Depot)

6. Do you have stuff? We know you have stuff – Norton Talks About Stuff  (via The Inspiration Room)

7. How a little copywriting can go a long way: David Ogilvy Inspires Big Ad Gig Hopeful (via AgencySpy)

8. Hooray for celebrity advertising (maybe) – Jennifer Lopez Stries Alliance with Fiat (via Adweek)

Great Designs from a Great Week

1. Celadon rebrand
2. Pop-up Design Museum
3. Madison Sourdough | Lincoln | Liberty | Eagle

Get More:

Thoughts on Advertising 
Thoughts on Branding
Thoughts on Design
Thoughts on Creativity

Happenings in Advertising, Branding, and Design

1. WOW – It’s too bad the automatic laces don’t exist! Nike Auctions 1,500 Michael J. Fox ‘Back to the Future II’ Nike MAGs. (via Adweek)

2. Technology just keeps going and going and going! It’s amazing what we can do these days! An interactive table top and mirror. (via Adweek)

3. Play.com gets a new logo. Clean, simple and very friendly. (via Brand New)

4. Mercy Hospital once again gets a new brand – Double Crossed. Check out the more modern look.  (via Brand New)

5. Well I could use a little adventure and a new car! Ad of the Day: Dodge W+K hides three Dodge Journey’s across America. You find one, you keep it. (via Adweek)

In Other News:

Twins rock the Creative Industry – Pelle and Calle Sjoenell

Wieden + Kennedy named Digital Agency of the Year 2011

Celebrities Avoid .XXX Domain Naming and Branding, But What About the Rest of Us?

Get More:

Thoughts on Branding

Thoughts on Advertising 

The Things I Remember

Posted By:

As a designer, art director, project manager, social media guru, and coordinator of the website I find my processes constantly changing. The other day, I started thinking about all of the ways I initially learned how to design and all of the ways I used to keep my mind creative, and I realized how much I’ve really changed.

Sometimes change is good.

Once upon a time I used  to print out pages and pages of imagery that I researched. I would use those images as inspiration, and sometimes tracing guidelines. Today I do the same thing, but I also use these images for industry competitive analysis.

The more ideas, the closer the solution. 

Once upon a time I used to spend days upon days with pencil to paper on a large amount of ideas. Nowadays I do a 20/20 (20 concepts in 20 minutes) along with other creatives and we end up with 40–60+ ideas to consider. One of the biggest problems is that about a third of those ideas end up being unusable, but still, it’s pencil to paper.

I still like to stick to tradition.

Once upon a time I was glued to a light table like it was my only friend in the world. Sketch after sketch, trace after trace. Sometimes it didn’t get me anywhere, but then I would remember to turn the paper.  What do I do now? I copy and paste, copy and paste, but what I never do is, turn the ‘paper.’  If you have a good idea, but it’s not quite working the way you’d like it to, try again. Turn the paper. Rip the paper. Disassemble your sketch and put it all back together again. Sometimes a little rearranging will turn your good idea into a great one, and sometimes it will tell you once and for all that it just won’t work.

I try not to get myself discouraged.  

Once upon a time I would complete my entire design on paper using pencil, ink, gouache even (imagine that!), before even getting on the computer. Sounds like a big waste of time doesn’t it? I worked this way because I would often get on the computer and not really have an understanding of how I should build my design. Getting everything on paper helped me to map out the build. Today, I’ve taken a step backward. I don’t get everything down on paper first, I haven’t in a long time. There doesn’t ever seem to be enough time to completely map out an idea, not even in just pencil. The world is in a rush, so computer it is.

You will never be finished. You just have to know when to stop. 

Once upon a time I would try to refine and nit-pick at every. single. little. detail. I always wanted everything to be perfect. Then someone told me that there is no such thing as being finished, it’s just knowing when to stop. Nowadays I still live by that same rule.

So what does this all mean for me today? It means things are changing and they will always change. There are only two things I can do about change. I can either agree and embrace it, or I can disagree and fight like hell to be myself.

Can Your Strategy Be Proof That You Don’t Have One?

Posted by:
Tate Linden

When it comes to design? The answer is YES.

I came across a blog post today from a respected business strategist that made me seethe – just a little – but still a definite seethe or two was on display for a moment at Stokefire HQ. And all it took to cause this was a single word, “strategy“.  Out of respect for the strategist who was trying to share some genuine business wisdom I’ll not be sharing the link to the post where I found this.

In that unshared post (about using proper strategy to develop client trust more quickly) the following image was used:

At first glance it’s just your run-of-the-mill clipart special. But then you look closer. The word is presented directly facing you, the viewer. It’s got a soothing purple-to-grey-to-white vertical gradient combined with a rakish italic. Sort of like saying “let’s take it easy baby and go break down that wall!” As incongruous as that may be, at least it doesn’t violate the laws of physics or geometry. Which, if you couldn’t tell, is where we go after I rant a little bit more.

Perhaps you notice the cool dimensionality of the image? Good, because it’s pretty clear someone wanted to make sure you knew that multiple dimensions were involved. You’ve got the letters on a flat plane, the shadows on the letters, the shadows behind the letters, and the reflection beneath the letters.

There shall be no mistaking the fact that this is not just some plain old black text on a white background shiznit here. This took some serious CS-2 Photoshop-effecting skillz.

And yet the brilliance of the piece hasn’t even been touched upon. Check it – There is no combination of two effects that actually works together in the same physical universe. Seriously. Here’s the list I came up with:

  1. The light casting a shadow behind the letters is 45 degrees up and slightly behind your left shoulder as you view the text. So we’re starting off well enough here… But…
  2. The lighting on the letters is also above the text but apparently further to the left, as evidenced by the shadows on portions of letters that are casting shadows themselves in item 1.
  3. The lighting in the reflection is similar to that of the letters, but lets you see the hot spots that would only be visible if you were viewing the image from above, which you can’t do in a reflection beneath the image.
  4. The reflection itself has somehow shifted slightly to the right of where the letters themselves exist in space, without needing to do anything practical, like, say, tilting the mirror to one side or the other. The reflection just up and moved because it was, perhaps, strategically prudent to do so.
  5. The reflection compresses the font vertically, suggesting that we’re viewing the original text from above or that the mirrored surface is significantly slanted, but…
  6. The perspective given by the shadows cast behind the letters shows that the reflective surface is even.

But perhaps best of all…

7. The nifty descenders on the g and y descend below the (now selectively 100% transparent and non-reflective!) mirrored surface, forcing the inverted reflected letters to end abruptly before converting one pixel later to a matte surface onto which the shadows fall (on a different plane than the reflection.) Got that? Physics ain’t got nothing on this design.

No seriously. It ain’t. Or… uh… Doesn’t.

I’m sure some of you want to say, “Dude – why get so hung up on something as minuscule as some clip art used in a blog post? It’s just something used to fill space and sum up the fact that this is about strategy.”

My response (thanks for asking) is that this is exactly the sort of thing that led me to say  Design is an opportunity to continue telling the story, not just sum everything up.

Instead of using a throwaway piece of clipart that adds nothing, makes no sense, and looks amateurish (if you can prove that it’s you and that you’re nationally known award winning designer I’ll buy you lunch for a week) you could’ve found something that actually communicated the point of the blog post in a different way.

There is no part of your identity on which you get a free pass. Everything counts. If it is associated with things you think, do or say? That’s you. So when you choose to use clipart – or stuff that looks bad enough to be clipart – it says a ton about you and your business. And unless you’re a discount store it is probably saying stuff you don’t want to say.

Clipart-like design conveys stuff like:

  • We think you’re not paying attention – nor worth paying attention to
  • We’re cheap
  • We’re not creative
  • We don’t care about the customer experience
  • We don’t value aesthetics
  • We’re like everyone else
  •  And if you find what we do for less than we do it? You should jump on it, because price is our only differentiator.

The person who took the time to build the impossibly bad clipart that started this whole rant doesn’t deserve this wrath. I think it’s more directed at a culture that thinks that just having the tools to do something makes us expert practitioners

So… uh… if someone can give me the number of the person in charge of that I’ll go yell at them for a while and leave the poor soul (who will otherwise likely be waiting for me in a dark alley with a”strategy” tattoo on their forearm and a shiv in their hand) alone.





Creative Findings

Posted By:

I’ve always talked about staying creative and finding inspiration every where you go. One way is to utilize books. Two great books I’ve mentioned in the past are: “Caffeine for the Creative Team” and “Caffeine for the Creative Mind,” by Stefan Mumaw and Wendy Lee Oldfield. Another way to get yourself into the creative zone is to review what other people have done. Perhaps it will spark an idea for new packaging, business card, or even a strategic marketing plan. There many wonderful websites out there that share all sorts of creativity and as much as I want you to stay on our site I’m going to share a few of my favorite go-to places with you today.

Bench.li – Wonderful clean simple design inspiration. This site seems to have a heavy interest in print – one of my favorites.

DesignInspiration – Another great place for design.

The Dieline – Design examples for all sorts of products.

The Inspiration Room – Creativity from around the world, there always seems to be a lot of videos here.

The Story of Telling – Even reading a Creative’s blog helps to loosen up those creative oils.

Finding inspiration every where we go helps us learn and grow, and I personally try to look for it every single day. Inspiration can come in big and small packages, you just have to know where to find it. Go – be creative, and share with us what you come across.

*All images above were found on the blogs mentioned above. Thank you to you all for the great inspiration!

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