Archive for the ‘What I’m Doing’ Category

As part of the ad campaigns I have been creating for the Mendocino County Lodging Association and the newly named Visit Mendocino County, Inc. I was charged to design a 10 x 10 foot booth. Look!!


It was design on a much bigger scale than usual (from business cards to billboards in 60 seconds) so it was a fun and interesting project for me. Mendocino County is overflowing with richness: our beautiful blue Pacific, of course, the interesting little towns and villages, the vineyards of our Anderson Valley wine country and our splendid redwoods — getting the message in a non-jumbled way is the trick. We used shots from our incredible local photographers, John Birchard and Rita Crane to tell the story.


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We just finished up Pam Amante’s reprint on her business cards. It’s people like Pam who keep printers in business. She passes them out wherever she goes, and she goes to lots of places where lots of people who like to travel go. She passes out so many cards that we had to replenish the supply! Most recently, she visited a convention of 25,000 travelers, all potential guests for her place On the Beach, here in Fort Bragg, CA. She told me this great thing that corroborates everything I have always believed about good design and typography. She told me that she had a lot of rack cards and other materials out on a table at the booth she was working in and noticed that people gravitated to the prettiest rack cards and took those, leaving the less gorgeous ones where they lay. I suppose it should not come as a big surprise but I loved to hear it…especially that the rack cards that flew off the table most quickly were The Beachcomber Motel’s, which we designed here at Studio Z Mendocino. Here is another view of The Beachcomber Motel business cards:


We love the gleam of truquoise foil that hints at the sweep of waves you can spy right from one of the decks of Pam’s perfectly located lodging place. We deeply impressed the type into her cards by letterpress in gray ink (sort of sand colored gray) and overprinted her “swoosh” in the blue-green metallic foil, on thick white paper. We think these “little ambassadors” speak volumes about the fun atmosphere, the nearness of the beach, the comfy vibe you will find there. This is the essence of what we do, creating a visual mood that expresses what a business wants to say about itself. Yay for the power of letterpress!

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I am all excited about the unveiling of artist Julie Higgins’s painting tonight at the Mendocino Coast Botanical Gardens. She is the featured artist this year and I got to be the graphic designer of all their printed advertising, which included big posters, small posters, rack cards, post cards, and an invitation to the unveiling. Everything looks so LUSH…Julie’s acrylics have this vibrant inner glow; it was SO much fun to work with this art. I can’t show you ANYTHING yet, not till after the unveiling…Eeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee! Wait till you see! I will show you tomorrow after tonight’s festivities. The party’s outside at 5:30, if you can make it. Hope the 40% chance of rain gives over to the 60% chance that this overcast will clear up by then and we can all revel away sans umbrellas.


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Yesterday, Saturday morning, I woke up early and completely tore up a little three-fold brochure I designed last week. Two colors (didn’t need to be, since it was going to be printed digitally — I planned it that way), kind of a cornball Dean-Martin-swingin’ bold script, combined with a nice, clean sans serif for the main information. Not at all my usual style, but I liked it for its straightforward, ‘Fifties vibe, and, though I wasn’t totally crazy about it, it had a certain appealing consistency and rhythm of its own. It was okay, you know,  and since this was a “quick turnaround” thing, a “no big deal” thing, a “let’s get it to the printer, this is an emergency” thing, I dashed it off and delivered the PDF to my clients in record time. They LOVED IT…and then decided it really had to have some pictures.

Uhh. What most non-designers don’t know is that once a design is close to being finished, it is just about impossible to add unplanned-for elements and have it retain any of its original integrity. So, dutifully, and knowing this, I stuck in the tiny photos and it was, predictably, terrible. I could not let it go out that way. No way. NOOOO way!! That is why six a.m. Saturday found me excitedly redesigning it from scratch.

The good news is, it’s a lot better than the first one, actually, and it has pictures and it’s not going to be a smirch on my design reputation…and the clients like it way better too. I feel much relieved and much happier all around.

In spite of the happy ending, this episode reminded me of the hilarious  YouTube video about what if a corporation were trying to redesign the Stop Sign — http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xwqPYeTSYng–

If you are a designer, you will totally die laughing. It’s our life! But it also makes me curious about this process. It’s almost as if the design, be it a new logo, a flyer, an ad or total redesign of an identity, wants to be a certain way. It’s the designer’s job to find the path to it. There is this interior exploration on the designer’s part to understand and “get” the spirit of the company or client, the intention, the vibe, and translate that so it becomes a truthful, emotional depiction of it, visually. In truth, there are infinite possibilities available, but there is only ONE that will be chosen. This means that every comp the designer delivers needs to be GOLD. The designer ethically must believe in every iteration, because the client could chose any one, and if he chooses the one Ms. Designer threw in as bait, she is sunk. She is saddled with a smirch on her reputation.

Yep, every design concept is completely, absorbingly crucial. It takes hours and hours of creative digging and fooling around and playing and going back and forth, tons of experience and study and knowledge of typography and placement. I have been learning these things for thirty-five years of so now and I still feel such angst over design, such elation when I hit on something that really “sings.”

Hardly anyone but another designer knows the creative tussling this requires. So when a designer delivers something, there is usually a lot of love in it, to tell you the truth. We fall in love with our work, unfortunately, and that is possibly a bad mistake, but a natural piece of creativity too. In a sort of woowoo context, designers are mediums…artistic witches interpreting the clients’ hopes, and passing them through the filter of our own aesthetics and skills, to come out with an ineffable something that does its job with elan and grace. We aim to please, but get our own volition involved in there too.

Graphic Design is a crazy mystery. We love the process and the struggle. We love the work itself, and we love the clients too, almost all of them.


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