Make that trying really, really hard to win over the palates and gullets of hipsters. Campbell’s has ditched the red and white can in favor of white plastic pouches. On these pouches there are black and white photos of stylish, young people that could have been snapped on Instagram. There’s hand-drawn typography that’s more Oatmeal than soup, and there’s the kind of ironically self-aware verbiage that populates Facebook walls from Silver Lake to Williamsburg. There’s a mysterious feature called a ‘cool touch’. Is this a thumbprint-shaped heat indicator to measure microwave oven efficiency, or is it just there for looks? All in all, it looks like the kind of patronizing package design that would be lampooned before it was consumed.
Maybe this is all too harsh. I haven’t even tried Go! Soup. Maybe just because I’m over 30, or because I’ve lived for four years in a gentrifying enclave of Los Angeles, or maybe because I’m the kind of guy who makes his own chicken stock, I think that Campbell’s is, in their own words, waaay overreaching. By putting a phrase like “Holla! You gotta check out this [soup flavor]” over the name of the product, the old focus group favorite makes an appearance: the call to action, requested by people who don’t understand the target market demographic and/or have reservations about the product they’re trying to sell them. If you feel the need to first tell people to pay attention to your communication, you need to do it better.
Having said all that, the Go! Soup menu sounds pretty good. Creamy smoked gouda with red pepper, creamy chipotle with roasted corn, chicken & quinoa with poblano chilies, golden lentil with Madras curry, and spicy chorizo—global flavors and ingredients are a long way from the Chicken & Stars and Vegetable Beef of my upbringing. But the menu is only part of the equation why pre-packaged, ready to eat soups are struggling to regain their relevance in the marketplace: a heightened awareness of additives and preservatives have reshaped how American consumers shop and eat. Canned soup’s high-sodium reputation neither tastes good, nor is good for you. Contemporary consumers like those Campbell’s is pursuing simply expect more: fresh, seasonal ingredients and healthy offerings that taste good.
Will the pouch package allow for more freshness and fewer preservatives, enabling Campbell’s to beat canned soup’s mushy, bland, and salty rap? If so, Campbell’s could be poised to reclaim the mantle of “mmm-mmm good.”
Location: Los Angeles, CA Square Feet: 72 Division: Rent
What makes your small kitchen so cool? It’s got all my favorite things and is the workshop where I tinker. I am tall enough to reach everything. And there’s enough room for two.
Describe a challenge you’ve overcome or a smart resource you’ve found for your kitchen. I’m inspired by the no-nonsense aesthetic of restaurant kitchens—the kind that are the size of a cockpit where everything is within arm’s reach. My resources come from everywhere, but most of the fittings are IKEA or Target or restaurant suppliers.
The challenge in renting means not being able to gut it and start over. I love to cook and have acquired a lot of gear and a lot of books. I’ve had to make use of every cubic inch. I modified an IKEA Grundtal pot rack by removing the center rods, taking Rationell pot lid holders and putting them against the wall to create dividers, enabling me to store my pots and pans upright, like books—and not compromise my spice rack. I modified an IKEA shelving unit by fitting a butcher block top to create a prep area, storing appliances underneath and enabling two people to use the space.
Besides size, lighting has been a concern. I replaced the fixture and positioned clamp spots up at the ceiling for additional indirect lighting.
What’s your favorite meal to cook here? Whatever is in season at the Hollywood Farmer’s Market. I love comfort foods, cheap cuts of meat cooked low and slow for hours—Braised short ribs come to mind. I’ve been making sourdough breads from wild yeast starters for a while now, and still trying to get the perfect Salted Caramel ice cream out of my KitchenAid ice cream maker attachment.
In the Summer of 2008, I moved from a two bedroom apartment in Los Angeles’ Koreatown neighborhood to a cozy studio a few miles northeast to a hilltop in Echo Park.
As an avid home cook, the only thing I really liked about my Koreatown digs was the kitchen. It was a galley with ample cabinet space, a two-stool eating bar with an adjacent dinette, open to the living room, and a sight line to the television. But with a job promotion and schedule change, and a roommate who wanted out, I chose not to renew my lease, and ended up finding a tiny studio apartment in a neighborhood closer to work and exactly where I wanted to be.
The new kitchen is closed off from the main living area, and 8’ x 9’, five cabinets, and about 20 square feet of countertop. In order to unpack the boxes I would bring over each night as soon as I had the keys, I had to install places to put the things I was unpacking. What’s more, I would eventually have more than the four cooking vessels I unpacked, would need space for a future stand mixer and other tools. I was in the KCRW Angel Cookbook Club, so I could expect five new books per year, and a host of Food & Wine, Cook’s Illustrated, and Bon Appétit magazines I received from the frequent purchases I was making at Sur La Table.
I embraced the lack of cabinetry as an opportunity to create a utilitarian workspace. Metro shelving, ubiquitous in restaurant kitchens and warehouses was my ideal pick, but it was not only cost-prohibitive, the sizes were too big for the spaces I needed to fill. But the post-and-rack, polished chrome shelving could be had for cheaper and in smaller sizes. At Target, I found a shelving unit, a Metro knockoff with a butcher block top that fit perfectly by the range. I used IKEA Omar, another Metro knockoff, for both sides of the refrigerator wall—high shelving to serve as supply/pantry storage in the corner nearest the door, and wide, low, two-tier storage for beneath the window for appliances. I then fit this shelf with a butcher block top I cut to fit the space between the corner and the refrigerator, and secured it with an adjustable table leg, using the space beneath for a trash bin. This prep table did the unthinkable—turned 72 square feet into a space where two people could work.
Over the top of the window and over the doorway leading to the main area, I installed eight linear feet of wall-mounted shelving. This gave me space for my growing cookbook collection. Underneath I fit it with glass racks for stemware.
I installed stainless rod and bracket shelving to store pots, pans, and knives. When I first moved in, I had six pots and pans that hung on hooks from one shelf. As I bought more, I had to reconfigure, as the few hanging pots and pans monopolized the space as well as covered the spice rack. I added a second shelf beneath the first, where I kept my pots. For the pans, I removed the four center rods from the Grundtal shelf, and positioned pot lid racks against the wall. The expandable racks have stainless steel pegs that serve as dividers, enabling the pans to sit upright in the rack, like books on a shelf.
White plywood bins line the tops of the cabinets, as well as keep smaller items on lower shelves like towels and appliance accessories. White plastic, lidded bins keep extra glassware and serving pieces from collecting dust.
Dry goods Tetris
Because cabinet space was at a premium, maximizing the storage space was vital. For pantry staple bulk ingredients like flour and sugar, I used Cambro 4 quart Camsquares from a restaurant supplier. For those kept in smaller quantities, like rices, grains, and popcorn, I used Camwear quart rounds, and also reserved a few extra for different ingredients as well as leftover storage. This was for a few reasons—first, cost. They’re virtually indestructible and average out to a few dollars per container. They are also uniform in appearance: when I look in my cabinets, I see the ingredients and not the vessels they are in. Second, they stack as well as occupy the same amount of space. And finally, every restaurant supplier has Cambro products, meaning that whenever I need or want more, they are easy to find.
There was one light fixture with a dim 40 watt bulb, which I replaced with a pendant. Even with a brighter compact fluorescent bulb, I still wanted it brighter. I added four clamp spotlights, pointing them up at the ceiling for even, indirect light.
As these cabinets were presumably handmade by the carpenter who built the rest of the unit and are probably at least 50 years old, the drawers are small and the size is, shall we say, unconventional. At The Container Store, I found a great (and inexpensive) modular storage system of linkable plastic trays by Rubbermaid.
Pieces of Flair
My unit faces the street and is about 15’ from the curb, so privacy is essential. I also wanted a little bit of color and style to break up an otherwise cold, utilitarian space. I purchased IKEA Enje roller blinds, but the were sheer, meaning they were virtually transparent at night. Also, the color choices available that would work in my space were either white or charcoal. What I ended up doing was replacing the sheer fabric with a bold IKEA print (Gisela), as the large, offset orange and black rounds reminded me of my two most important cooking vessels: a cast iron skillet and an enameled cast iron French Oven.
Without a dry erase board, produce and perishable ingredients can be quickly forgotten. But dry erase boards are boring to look at. However, glass works as a dry erase surface. I used a framed Hatch Show Print original for a dry erase board with style.
Finally, I wanted a kitschy, food-themed something in my kitchen. At Amoeba, I found a vintage poster from Green Jellö’s Cereal Killer album, which most people who came of age in the early 1990s remember from their heavy metal rendition of “Three Little Pigs” and the accompanying music video.
Apple’s new Genius campaign for the 2012 Summer Olympics debuted last night, the first of the post-Jobs era. Through an age-old, client-driven tactic that writers refer to as “Johnny Exposition,” we see what appears to be a normal, everyday conversation between a brand ambassador and someone who represents the target demographic, and learn about the benefits of owning and using a Mac. While the intent is to show all of the cool things you can do with a Mac, the product itself is given precious little (if any) facetime—we don’t see an iMovie being made, we only see a conversation between two people on how to make one. In reality, the product is a ‘genius,’ an overenthusiastic geek dressed as an Apple employee who shows up and solves problems—think Winston Wolf for the Glee set:
Not only is the new campaign insufferable to watch, it’s confusingly off brand. For the past three and a half decades, Apple has debunked the perception that computers are difficult to use and understand by designing beautiful, intuitive products—from MacOS’ GUI to the iPod, iPhone, iPad. They made computing personal and fun for people who weren’t tech wizards. The Genius campaign is a departure, selling Apple as a product line requiring the constant attention and tutelage of a professional to use, through a shameless plug for their retail outlets and their centerpiece feature, the Genius Bar.
Historically, Apple’s advertising has been as iconic as its products in ways that inspired people to use a Mac—1984 and Think Different as the most outstanding examples. The Switch campaign built upon Think Different, showing the Mac in action, in the hands of contemporary everyday people thinking differently.
In some ways, Genius is another permutation of the Get a Mac campaign that cleverly illustrated the ease and use of Apple products, although it also further reinforced an unfortunate and widely-held perception that Mac is a cult product for elitists, and PCs are for uptight nerds. Yet in spite of this, there are two fundamental differences between Genius and Get a Mac. First, it showed technical processes in a simple and memorable way. Second, Justin Long and John Hodgman were entertaining:
Swork Coffee opened its doors in January 2001, and has operated continually since that time on the corner of Colorado and Eagle Rock Boulevards in Los Angeles, California. Swork is unique in that its baked goods are made fresh daily, as well as their sandwiches and salads. Swork is also unique among coffee bars in that it features an indoor playground catering to children and their parents.
Swork Coffee’s customer base is made up of the following:
Local parents who use the child-friendly Sworkland play area during the day.
Students from nearby Occidental college.
An eclectic mix of local artists and writers.
While Swork maintains a presence in the community, its profits have flatlined in the past five years. The owner has expressed both interest and urgency in expanding Swork’s reach, its customer base, and ultimately, the bottom line.
Swork opened in a time where Eagle Rock was largely undeveloped. During its remodeling, the windows were papered over and covered with question marks until the grand opening party, where its identity as a coffee bar was revealed. The white question mark within a red circle was retained as the logo:
Although trademarked by Swork, the question mark within a circle is a symbol used widely in environmental and online communications to indicate a place to ask questions and, obtain information or help. Question marks are also used to denote a lack of needed information, and a universal symbol to hide identity.
1. a sentence in an interrogative form, addressed to someone in order to get information in reply.
2. a problem for discussion or under discussion; a matter for investigation.
3. a matter of some uncertainty or difficulty; problem (usually followed by of ): It was simply a question of time. 4. a subject of dispute or controversy.
5. a proposal to be debated or voted on, as in a meeting or a deliberative assembly.
6. the procedure of putting a proposal to vote.
7. Politics a problem of public policy submitted to the voters for an expression of opinion.
8. Law a. a controversy that is submitted to a judicial tribunal or administrative agency for decision, b. the interrogation by which information is secured, c. Obsolete judicial examination or trial.
9. the act of asking or inquiring; interrogation; query.
10. inquiry into or discussion of some problem or doubtful matter.
Regular customers and locals frequent Swork because of the quality of the product and service, while potential new customers pass by unaware of what Swork is or does.
To generate a larger customer base, a new identity speaking to the core characteristics of the Swork brand is of highest urgency.
What makes Swork unique to other coffee bars?
Quality. Swork brews boutique roasters like Intellegentsia, Groundworks, and Handsome.
Freshness. Food items made fresh, on site, every day.
Community. The first and longest-running coffee bar in Eagle Rock.
Given the Swork identity is essentially meaningless—it was designed to prompt the question “What is Swork?” (the answer, per the founder: a combination of the words ‘success’ and ‘work’), which is unfortunately not asked often enough—with the advent of local competitors, business has steadily fallen since 2006.
In the age of Starbucks, we’ve all become quite familiar with the coffee bar concept. It is expected that a coffee bar will have muffins, cookies, brownies, and maybe some snacks. The easiest and surest way to hammer this home is to play upon the lifeblood of Swork—coffee. It is a logo that would be placed in windows and on some merchandise.
Concept 1 of 3:
The most common image and technique in latté art, the Rosetta shows a barista’s skill—it requires milk steamed to an exact 140º, and a steady hand. It is a flourish that always impresses, its beauty is synonymous with precision, skill, and quality:
While the rosetta provides stylistic, graphical panache, if it’s not on top of a coffee cup, it doesn’t read as coffee, which brings us back to the same place as before. Also, the latté, while among the most popular espresso drinks, is the only of the dozen or so drinks on the Swork menu to feature the rosetta.
Concept 2 of 3:
Of all the imagery associated with coffee, none is more transcendent than the handled, ceramic vessel from which it is consumed. The hemispherical, saucered cup or cylindrical mug communicates all types of coffee drinks, as well as tea and hot chocolate.
A reversed question mark evokes the first letter of Swork. The steam follows the contours of the S. While an effective mark, I wanted to embrace the Swork vibe of being a small, independent, community-oriented place. While I felt this mark effective, it evokes a large chain, a supplier or distributor, rather than a friendly neighborhood coffee bar.
Inspired by early-modernist European trademarks, and set in a font whose very name means ‘Swiss’. Full of a single-origin brew for mom or a housemade hot chocolate for the kids, the Happy Cup is a welcoming, unpretentious mark, the sign of a friendly neighborhood place.
A bold wordmark that effectively answers “What is Swork?”
Early on in the movie Bridesmaids, Annie Walker returns home to her apartment to find Brynn, her roommate’s shiftless sister, relaxing on the couch and watching a daytime talk show.
Brynn has exciting news to share: earlier that day, a passer-by in a van had offered her a complimentary tattooing service. Brynn accepted, and shows Annie her new body art: a chartreuse, goblin-like character resembling Slimer of Ghostbusters fame—a Mexican drinking worm, an ancient Navajo symbol meaning ‘wasted’. It begins at her navel, traverses one of her ample love handles and culminates in an infected mess covering her lumbar region.
Most importantly, as Brynn proudly tells Annie, “It’s for free!”
The scene ends with Brynn pouring frozen peas down her back to curb the swelling, and the money she saved on her tattoo presumably went to pay for a Tetanus shot and an Amoxicillin prescription.
How we got here
Speculative work—known by its industry parlance ‘spec work’—is a simple idea, and hardly new: work done without the promise of payment. When designers lack paid work and need to build a portfolio, they resort to spec work. Writers do it too. Similarly, for about as long as anyone can remember, clients seeking a new ad agency will sometimes solicit spec work from a few suitors—a rite well-documented in TV shows like Mad Men and The Pitch.
Pitches are generally reserved for high-profile accounts when the amount of incoming business and lengthy contract or retainer can offset the initial work laid out. But because they are a real part of the ad industry, pitches are built into an agency’s budget and can usually absorb the loss. Pitches within the ad industry are often governed by contracts, dictating who retains the rights to work that is not part of a winning pitch. The rest of the time, if a client wants to hire a designer or firm they conduct a regular job interview process: reviewing portfolios and meeting face-to-face or over the phone.
Crowdsourcing is the outsourcing of tasks to a group of people. Like spec work it too has a long history, although mobile connectivity has breathed new life into the concept. It has become the business model for Internet startups like Gigwalk, where anyone with an iPhone can log in and complete small, easy tasks such as taking a few photos of a store and uploading them—about 20 minutes of work—for a payout of about $7.
It is a surprise no one that the Internet has fundamentally changed the way designers work. However, a popular trend is ground for concern for both designers and clientele. Using the pitch model, businesses and organizations great and small have used crowdsourcing to make hiring decisions for skilled tasks—namely, graphic design—in the form of design contests. These contests are conducted one of two ways: in direct sponsorship by a company or organization, or through sites like 99 Designs, LogoBids, and Crowdspring.
In the case of one such contest sponsored by Occupy in 2011, 1,591 designers submitted 8,091 designs for a prize of $1,000. What that means is each designer submitted an average of 5 designs, and each of those takes anywhere from 8-12 hours to complete. While the prize money averages out to a reasonable hourly for the winning designer—about $80 per hour—consider this: that winning designer likely submitted four other designs that weren’t chosen, thereby lowering the hourly to a paltry $16—presuming there were no revisions requested.
Last and most importantly: Occupy now owns the rights to all 8,091 submissions, meaning it bought somewhere between 40-80,000 man hours of work—that matches the full-time effort of a 20-person design team for 1-2 years—for $1,000.
Crowdsourcing provides clientele with the promise of a network of thousands of designers, and unlimited revisions. And if you’re a client looking to hire a designer and don’t know where to start, it all sounds pretty good—you get everything you want for cheap, right? Well, let’s take a look at what the designer and client are really getting into.
Crowdsourcing from the Client Side: The Four failures of Design Contests
The design community’s aversion to spec work isn’t new, and is well-documented. But a designer’s plight is not the client’s problem. While the idea of buying the rights to thousands of designs for pennies per man hour may be appealing to some clientele, there is no guarantee of the quality of the work, or worse yet, if it is even original work at all.
1. Stranger Danger
Client relationships are the most valuable currency in the design industry. To build a good one, you need time. Face time. A commitment to good work and helping grow your business is what comes standard in every healthy client/designer relationship, and there is no shortcut to a good working relationship. In a crowdsourced contest, the only relationship a client has with a designer is the work brief. There is no way to review a designer’s portfolio, or even to verify the amount of skill or experience any contestant has.
Look at it this way: As a business owner, would you simply give the job to someone based on whomever showed up to the job site, or would you rather receive resumes, check references, and interview to find the best person?
2. Is it pure?
With crowdsourcing, clients can never be sure what they are getting. Given that crowdsourcing grants a large amount of anonymity to contestants, and no working relationship between the designer and the client, some designers simply alter someone else’s work and submit it. This happens one of two ways: borrowing heavily from other entries within the contest or altering a design found elsewhere on the Internet. Design contests leave clients wide open to the risk of copyright or trademark infringement lawsuits.
3. Quality ≠ Quantity
While an individual designer hired by a client may submit a few different concepts for a client to choose, a crowdsourced competition will deluge clients with hundreds, if not thousands of different designs. Just because you have hundreds of designs to look at doesn’t mean any of them are good—let alone right for your business.
Price is a factor in your decision, but just because people on the internet are willing to combine images and words and submit them in your contest does not mean that they understand your business, your marketplace, or your customers’ needs and wants.
4. Good, Fast, Cheap—pick two.
Quality, efficiency, and cost are the three factors of any service. When you figure that the prize money for most crowdsourced design contests is well below market value, and contests on 99Designs and LogoBids usually last 7-10 days, you have a recipe for results well below standard. Experienced designers whose work can add value to your business are not the kind of people who will enter a contest and give you as much of their time as you ask for free.
The bottom line? You get what you pay for. If you wouldn’t do a job for less than it’s worth, why expect someone else to do one for you?
Designers are lured into contests by the siren’s song of a little prize money or 15 minutes of fame. Dozens if not hundreds of designers will enter any given contest, and with each entry the odds of winning are more by chance than based on the strength of a given design. Finally, the prize money awarded is almost always well below market value for a designer’s work and experience. And that’s if you win.
When agencies develop a pitch, they do so with legal protections and provisions in place for both winning and losing scenarios. With a pitch, the client is presented a sample campaign as a product: they can take it or leave it. Lawyers on both sides have drafted a contract outlining who owns the rights to the work—in accepting a pitch, a client agrees to buy the work from that pitch. If a client passes on a pitch, the agency still retains the rights to their work.
2. No Strings Attached
There are no such protections and provisions available to designers submitting work to crowdsourced contests. A client can ask for as many revisions as they want and in the end, the client owns the rights to all submissions. A client decides on a winner, but there’s nothing to stop a client from later on using another submission that wasn’t compensated. In this situation, the designer has no recourse.
The crowdsourced contest makes no sense for any designer, regardless of skill: give your work and experience away for free, as well as the rights to your work, no cap on your time commitment and no promise of payment.
While design is far from the first industry to be affected by the Internet and won’t be the last, the nature of graphic design makes it different from other industries in creative and service sectors.
Programmers write code that can in some cases be reused or repurposed for another site or software application. By the very nature of design as well as intellectual property laws, designer’s work can’t be.
Architects design buildings and bridges. Lawyers interpret laws. Both professions endure years of schooling and are required to attain licenses to practice their crafts. No, designers don’t have those barriers to entry—then again, no one has ever died when a website crashed, or went to jail because of poorly-set type—but a designer’s skill and experience can add substantial value to a business, while bad design or an improperly-calibrated brand can sink a business. Why leave your business to chance?
Similar to designers, chefs prepare food to diner’s requests. But if you were to visit a restaurant, order several dishes and only pay for your favorite, you’d leave in handcuffs. For a restaurant to allow customers to pay for only their favorite menu item is unsustainable. Just as chef’s work is prepared with ingredients, time, and skill, graphic design is similarly prepared with images, type, time, and skill.
Like the Joker reminded his gangster colleagues in The Dark Knight, “if you’re good at something, never do it for free.” If designers stop entering crowdsourced contests, they will cease to exist. We as an industry can control our destiny.
If you’re a designer, your ideas and your work are your most valuable assets—never give them away. Make your own projects if you want to build your portfolio. Find a local business and barter—I never said you had to be paid in money, just fairly compensated for your work. Join a non-profit—Taproot is a great source—and donate time.
If you’re a client and can’t afford an experienced designer, there’s probably a college with a design program nearby—give them a call. In 1971, a man named Phil Knight did just that. At the time, he was running a fledgling sporting goods shop, and needed a logo to sew on a new line of shoes. He hired a local graphic design student named Carolyn Davidson, who did the job and invoiced him for $35. As the story goes, Knight didn’t love the design at first, but assured Davidson that it would grow on him.
12 years later, Nike had become a publicly-traded company and a leading manufacturer of athleticwear. Knight invited Davidson to lunch, presented her with a gold and diamond Swoosh ring, and an envelope containing a reported 500 shares of Nike stock. The Swoosh turned 40 in 2011, and is one of the most widely-recognized corporate logos the world over.
Davidson’s stock today, adjusted for splits, is valued around $1,000,000.
As designers, our work is all about relationships. The long and short of it, a client comes to us with a problem, we listen first, later converse and together arrive at a solution. Based on the process and strength of that solution, hopefully we get more work. As both sides hope, a certain amount of familiarity leads to better work that connects the client to their intended audience better and more efficiently, and the investment of time and energy into this relationship is the difference between just a logo, ad, or website and building a brand. Our understanding of the client is what breathes life into our pixels and bezier curves.
At the same time, the incompleteness of the relationship, the distance between the designer and the client serves to expedite the path to the printer and going live.
In the Summer of 2010, I had a client that was different.
The most difficult client you will ever have is one you already know far too much about: their ego, their insecurities, strengths, weaknesses, hopes, dreams, present, past, boxers or briefs. It’s the client that looks back at you in the mirror.
Designing and building one’s own brand is arduous, a process given to endless restarts and revisions, because as your own client, you can be reinvented on a whim simply by uploading a new logo or ordering new business cards. What to do, what or how much to say, and perhaps more importantly what not to say, are all crucial decisions. And it can easily be overthought.
What’s in a Name
I began to ponder that I’ve been branding myself for pretty much my entire life—back when the word ‘branding’ was only used in the summary of a Lee Jeans ad. I was given the name Andrew at birth, but outside of government agencies and my parents, no one who knows me has ever called me that. The first few days at any new workplace, school, or team was spent branding myself as Drew, not Andrew.
Though I spent much of life since adolescence calling people by their surname, I most often went by my first name. Not because there was ever more than one Fansler in my own peer group, but because I’d had enough teachers, coaches, and classmates butcher its pronunciation. And I was conflicted—I’d long felt that there was a certain level of social status by reaching the point where one was referred to as their surname—I wanted to be cool, so I simply gave out that which I wanted back—to be called by my surname.
That began to change, though, when a professor and mentor of mine made a wry observation: “you’re an artist and your name is Drew. It’s like if you were an accountant and your name was Crunch.” And it wasn’t until I became involved in the swing dance community in the late 1990s, toward the end of my college career that my peer group began calling people by their first name. And I realized I was the only person in my peer group named Drew. In retrospect, I don’t know anyone whose favorite class wasn’t P.E. or makes a living teaching this curriculum refers to people they know by their surname—there’s a reason for ‘first-name basis’—It’s something to be given or earned.
First, I looked at the most often-used indication of a personal brand—a signature. While decidedly not a final solution or even a path to visit, the nuances of how I signed my name I found an important starting point. Usually I sign my name with my first name and the first letter of my last name, which I remember doing as far back as 1997—not too long after ‘Crunch’ time. Though its look and feel has evolved over the years, it’s been a constant.
Three. That’s the Magic Number.
I am a one-person shop with no partners or staff to contend with, and therefore I wanted my name front and center. Any self-promotional brand or philosophically-derived name I have ever used to define my work I found always lacking staying power, or simply required too much explaining. I am continually reinventing myself, and the only constant defining quantity of my personal brand is my name. As a multi-disciplinary designer and sometimes writer, I didn’t want to describe my services as ‘design,’ but rather the broader ad-speak ‘creative.’ As my first name can also be a verb, and because odd numbers are better than even, the third word was my surname. Drew Fansler Creative.
Onto the next task. Similar to how I felt no name or word had any permanence, I similarly felt the same about an icon. Lots of people like icons because they stare back at you from your desktop dock, or because the internet is full of them in their Web 2.0 glory, all gradient-meshed and drop-shadowed. And that’s exactly why the best logos aren’t found there—the best logos don’t look like everyone else’s. It’s why a made-to-measure suit is always going to fit better than the off-the-rack number at Banana Republic. Because it’s made for you, by a professional you have a business relationship with.
As the Western World’s base level of communications of complex ideas and abstract thoughts, the Latin alphabet would be where I’d make my stand. I’ve loved type since I was a kid, when I would spend hours watching sports, sketching out logos and typography, setting nameplates and numbers. Specifically, I marveled at the proud timelessness of the letterforms on baseball caps—the Giants, Padres, Cardinals, Dodgers, Mets, Royals, and yes, even the Yankees—all had typographic puzzles—ligatures. Interlocked, overlapped glory. It lent an old-school statement of value and craftsmanship, and signify work and relationships built to last. And like a great pair of jeans, they will never go out of style. Why craftsmanship and building things that last are considered old-school is another blog post altogether.
Using Illustrator, I began with by revisiting the DF I’d created in 2006. While the direction was right, it wasn’t a final product by any means, and never saw more than a few .pdf invoices. Not only are those the two letters dreaded by anyone who has ever attended school, the letterforms lacked harmony:
I experimented with them set wide and tall, like the USC Trojans ‘SC.’ However, the ‘F’ has a single stroke and not a square base like a ‘C’. Better, but lacking cohesion. With its single stroke base, the ‘F’ was always out of balance:
With a third letter, ‘DFC’ became the focus. Early takes began with a smaller ‘C’, similar to the St. Louis Cardinals’ ‘StL’. Then a version with the C and D overlapping and interlocked with the F:
In the age where everything is abbreviated by either dropping words or using initials—Young & Rubicam is ‘Y&R.’ Foote, Cone & Belding ‘Foote Cone’, and when I worked on the Crate & Barrel account, we simply called it ‘Crate.’ Leo Burnett is simply referred to by its own staff ‘Burnett’ unless you worked in HR and then it was ‘LBC.’ What’s more, the DFC ligature looked like a modern update to the Chicago Fire Department:
Going back to Mono
While corporate accounts are a considerable part of my business, I didn’t want to be one myself. I wanted to be on a first-name basis with my clientele. I am not DFC, I am Drew. I’m not an agency or a business, I am a person who does business. I don’t want my clients to meet with DFC, I want them to meet with Drew.
Revisiting the signature, it occurred to me that outside of credit receipts, I seldom use my signature for anything. I signed my e-mails with a single letter—‘D.’:
In the social media age, the proportions had to be more or less square, although I definitely did not want a full-on, sharp-edged square. In using a single, unadorned letter, uniqueness and memorability is in treatment.
During my time living in Nashville, I visited Hatch Show Print and quickly became taken with their letterpress process, making new poster art the same way they have for the past century and a half. I remembered their floor-to-ceiling shelves of wood blocks and galleys of typography, the letters standing out in relief.
Given its squarish proportion, I used the capital D in Clarendon Black. Its heavy stroking would stand up to a three-dimensional shading and its serifs and thick-think weight would provide interest.
First, I sheared the D for perspective.
Then, by dropping a copy directly below and joining them with the Pathfinder tool and then cleaning up the paths by deleting the unwanted anchor points, created the vertical facing. I added a thick outline to enclose the D. The end result was good, but it lacked depth and intrigue.
Using the pathfinder again, I divided the vertical facing into bars of equal width:
I denoted the different faces and curvatures by using different patterns of shading:
And then lastly, I cleaned up the paths, fine-tuned the outline, and used the pathfinder to fuse all of the shapes together:
Typical for this business, the simplest concepts involve a long journey. But the end result is a happy client, albeit one that doesn’t expect to have any more logo work for the foreseeable future.
Food trucks have been a part of Los Angeles’ urban culture for decades. The mobile kitchen was born when caterers bought old delivery trucks and fit them with bare-bones kitchen implements, enabling them to serve far-flung movie shooting locations by day, and late-night food in neighborhoods underserved by brick-and-mortar restaurants. As can be imagined, fare served from these trucks was simple, and most commonly tacos and burritos, the family recipes of the truck’s owners. Every Los Angeles neighborhood has at least one taco truck, and every Angeleno has a favorite. But in the late 2000s, entrepreneurs and trained chefs began to look at food trucks as a way to serve more inventive street fare to the public.
My relationship with Kogi began in 2009, with a winning submission to their sponsored tee shirt contest. Starting with a grainy iPhone photo I snapped while waiting in line for Kogi’s famous Korean short rib tacos at a stop in Los Angeles’ Silver Lake neighborhood. I reduced and simplified the image, boiling it down to its most basic shapes and impulses. The end result embodies the brand’s hip, urban, life-of-the-party essence. In the years that followed, this shirt design became the staff uniform. When the throngs of customers began asking for it, Kogi began selling it from the truck to its customers. Later that year, Bon Appétit magazine took notice, naming Choi Best New Chef of 2009.
In the years that followed, Kogi’s fleet has grown to include four trucks operating throughout Southern California, and had made trips to Chicago and New York City. In 2010, the year that Food & Wine awarded Choi with their Best New Chef award (the first time the award was ever given to a food truck), his next chapter Chego opened as a storefront in a West Los Angeles strip mall. A Korean compliment to the chef that loosely translates to ‘that’s the most delicious thing I’ve ever eaten,’ Chego does a brisk take-out lunch and dine-in dinner business, dealing in what Choi describes as ‘chillax peasant food from the soul.’
All Together Now
Choi’s staff has since outgrown the art I created for them in 2009, and they asked for a co-branded shirt for their staff of 80 strong to wear aboard Kogi’s trucks and in Chego’s kitchen.
Fusing two trademarked brands presents a unique set of challenges.Of course the rolling restaurant Kogi and quick-casual Chego are different places. Kogi’s dishes are portable and predominantly served in tortillas, the heartbeat of Chego is in their rice bowls. Yet both restaurants have strong nightlife roots and a gritty, urban sensibility. Both menus both from the imagination and soul of Roy Choi, with many of the same ingredients and flavor profiles, as well as prepared and consumed by many of the same faces—the essence of a Mr. Miyagi paradox of different, but same. My concept was to show a jar of sambal and bottle of sriracha featuring the Kogi and Chego brands in the midst of a cornucopia including cilantro, lime, basil, corn, and cabbage. But this mashup of mise en place simply looked like a line cook’s workspace. It lacked both brands’ urgency and impetus, and worse still looked like an ad for a line of branded spicy condiments.
The solution was a synergy of both brands, and culminated in a fresh and spicy lot party: the Kogi truck pulled up outside Chego. The process used to create this illustration was similar to the Kogi original, filtering and reducing low-resolution photos, a composite of Chego’s storefront and a Kogi truck. As of June 23, this shirt is in production and will soon be for sale on Kogi trucks as well as at Chego.
Successgirl is a startup stationery company marketed to young women from high school to 30s. The flagship product is a day timer and organizer supplemented with inspirational, success-oriented content, as well as a mobile app.
If this brand were a person, it would be female. This brand is either in school—be it undergrad, graduate or business school—and/or is employed, or pursuing her own entrepeneurship.
This brand would drive a Mini Cooper—quality, and an updated classic, but fun, feminine, and stylish with a splash of luxury.
As its principal product, the calendar is an integral image and metaphor to Successgirl. Calendars chart goals, plans, and ultimately, the future. Turning the page to anew beginning marked with the Successgirl S is to begin anew. Successgirl is the road map for one’s new beginnings and future plans.
Flight is symbolic of freedom, empowerment, accomplishment, and direction. Here it is explored in three different ways:
A caterpillar earns its wings and becomes a butterfly.
For centuries, doves have been used by sailors to search for nearby land on the horizon. They bring good news of peace and celebration.
Swallows have also been used by sailors, viewed as a good omen to those at sea, as they are land-based birds. Their symbolism of the fulfillment of promise, of a journey’s successful completion, and faithfulness makes them an enduring artistic theme in popular culture.
“Often used as an example of divine beauty, Vishnu is often described as the ’Lotus-Eyed One’. Its unfolding petals suggest the expansion of the soul. The growth of its pure beauty from the mud of its origin holds a benign spiritual promise.”
“In Buddhist symbolism, the lotus represents purity of the body, speech, and mind as if floating above the muddy waters of attachment and desire…[in] many Asian cultures the lotus is present in figurative form, representing elegance, beauty, perfection, purity and grace, being often used in poems and songs as an allegory for ideal feminine attributes.” —Wikipedia
In accordance with feng shui philosophy, the lotus was streamlined and its edges smoothed.
Typography was changed to give the brand a cleaner, more contemporary image:
Whenever I read UniWatch, which is often, I think that I missed my calling as a curator of athletic uniform designs, trends, and trivia. A considerable portion of my growing up was spent watching sports on TV with a layout pad on my lap and a fistful of pencils, sketching logotypes and crests and colorways that my favorite players to wear. Many of my earliest lessons about branding and design came from watching sports. Why I waited so long to enter a submission for one of their frequent uniform redesign contests is beyond me, but it definitely won’t be the last. This one was for the Houston Astros, a National League ballclub with sartorial history sometimes seminal, others forgettable.
Growing up in Chicagoland, I was never an Astros fan, though I fondly remember the wide swaths of reds, yellows, and oranges, the white shoes, the gratuitous use of oranges and the sans-serif typography as the epitome of cutting-edge cool at the time, but in reality was just ITC Kabel Ultra. Much of this was due to the fact that my dad, an avowed aesthetic purist by virtue of an upbringing as a Detroit Tigers fan, bemoaned them whenever the Astros showed up on WGN or TBS. As a kid I liked the Astros’ kit because at a young age, tradition was a language I had not yet learned. The Astros were unique, and in a way I could not yet describe, they belonged to my generation. My appreciation for piping, pinstripes, belted pants, buttons, Blackletter, and script would have to wait.
The Astros were also the harbinger of things to come—in 1982 my beloved White Sox, by way of a fan contest that began as a fashion show of prototypes and then culminated in the winner, each prototype was heavily influenced by the Astros, and if it weren’t for the Astros, softball leagues everywhere would still be playing in their skivvies.
pistols, stars & rainbows
The Houston Astros began in 1962 as the Colt .45s. With a move to the Astrodome in 1965, the Colt .45s moved to the Astrodome—then referred to as the eighth wonder of the world—and in honor of their venue and Houston’s NASA headquarters were renamed the Astros, and got a makeover. Ad agency McCann-Erickson gave the Astros an update with these rainbow uniforms, a concept debuting in 1975. Say what you will about this uniform, but it succinctly captured the city of Houston’s Southwest roots, the space program, and the state of Texas. Through the remainder of the 1970s, the Astros wore this getup both at home and on the road. Beginning in 1980, the brazen color banding had begun its phaseout. Bookended by swaths of navy, the rainbow striping was moved to vertical shoulder-sleeve striping and by 1987, the rainbow uniform was out of circulation.
losing their way
In the attempt to keep the Astros relevant through the years, the brand has failed to find equilibrium between Houston and Astros. The 1994 Astros donned futuristic gold and navy uniforms that were very much Astro and precious little if any Houston. Gone was the classic H-Star cap in favor of a sheared star outline that appeared to be hurtling through space. With the move to the now-Minute Maid Park in 2000, the Astros received their latest makeover. Being that their new digs were built on the grounds of the former Union Station, the Astros went back to the classics—pinstripes and a classic, vintage inspired logotype were the order of the day. With that, the Astros became nearly entirely Houston and very little Astro. For a team named for its city’s significance to the National space program, as pretty as their script was, it didn’t fit the Astros.
What’s more, the promising script had very little aesthetic support. Lettering like this screams for classic detailing, namely piping and block numbers, and sadly it never received either. The narrow, sans-serif numbering doesn’t jive with the logotype, and on the nameplates the two-color trim makes them practically illegible to the non-premium seat viewer. Strangest of all, the Astros chose to retain the half-shooting outlined star on their caps and as their mark, although it was fashioned more like a cattle brand. Call me crazy, but it seemed that the H-Star cap that had served the team so well could handily translate to this new color scheme.
For this redesign, I found plenty of inspiration in the Astros uniforms I remember from my 1980s coming of age, and the good-but-not-quite good enough teams with Glenn Davis, Mike Scott, Nolan Ryan, and Kevin Bass.
Beginning in the 1990s, trim became progressively more intricate, often times leading to nameplates and numbers reading ambiguously if in not unintelligible. Since the home uniforms are white and considering the wide, vibrant shoulder-arm striping, there is no need for a two-color number on the home uniforms. On the road gray, given the shade of the number is closer to the shade of the fabric, a white buffer is important, which is why the numbers and striping on the road uniform are trimmed in white. On the alternates, the numbers are also trimmed in white to set them apart from a busy background.
The Astros’ rainbow striping is a more sophisticated statement than most purists give it credit for. It mimics the bold patternwork of American Southwest folk art, and when paired with the a sans-serif logotype it becomes a modern statement of tradition befitting of a technology-rich city always chasing the horizon. From this viewpoint, it quickly becomes apparent that tradition and modernism in the city of Houston and its ball club are one in the same.
Beginning with these elements, I sought to add some classic touches to the Astros’ uniform design, starting with button-down jerseys, belted pants, and stirrups. The team name is set in an arch with the contrasting number on the bottom left of the jersey, a detail first used by the Dodgers that I have always been a fan of. I added the vertical shoulder striping, and completing the sleek, modern look, armpit-to-ankle striping was brought back from the 1980s.
In this redesign, nostalgia has taught us a few things—first, that double-knit pullovers and elastic waistbands are best left for Dov Charney to dredge up and sell to hipsters, and second, that given enough time, kitsch can be repurposed into historical significance:
Gone is the road uniform without the city name, and gone are the white shoes for all but one game a week.