Archive for July, 2008

Given an unlimited supply of money, what would you buy?

Big. Man. Japan. Really, there’s not enough weird Japanese film culture that makes it stateside. It’s unfortunate.

Quote, “[Early] anecdotal reports — largely from users of social networking platform Twitter — suggest that damage [from the 5.8 Richter scale earthquake] is minimal.” Wired Magazine is using Twitter as an anecdotal content source?

Would it be of any value to you, the reader, if there was a section of my site that aggregated all the content into one RSS feed? (Similar to .com/home, but even including some other stuff like bookmarks and the like?) Also, can anyone actually beta testing Virb 2 confirm that this is what it does?

I took it, and if you make websites, you should, too.

Photographer friend Jeremy Cowart has a new website. Flash-heavy and a lot more agency-friendly in terms of getting the work in front of potential clients. An understandable change of pace and UI, based on what I know of the industry. Oh, and my lovely bride makes an appearance in the Life section.

See you soon.

100° kisses,

I have almost the same number of Twitter followers as blog subscribers. And on an average day, my actual web hits to this .com are only 70% or so of that number. I wonder how much overlap there is? The widespread adoption of Twitter is still fascinating to watch.

This post is the first of a few detailing the 7-month process we went through at NewSpring Church to rework our identity for modernization, scaling at multiple locations and, most importantly, play visual catch-up with who we actually are. I was on staff at NewSpring from ’02-05ish and the “before” logo was designed and implemented just after my departure. That logo served the church well in the season of transition into permanent facilities and represented the 4-part vision statement of Engage, Enlarge, Endure and Enable, but it was no longer representative of the vibe, culture and personality of NewSpring. This process was an effort to find out who we are and then best represent that visually.

The set-up: I always start out branding work by asking the client for a list of words they think describes them (and then I try to get them to get the same list from their customers, but they hate that because they never see themselves the way others do. See my article on logo/brand perceptions for more on that topic.) Since I was technically both the client and the designer on this project, the key words I started out with were fresh, open, growing, friendly, modern, tight and bold. My direct supervisor Tony Morgan is on our senior management team and handled all the presenting of logo concepts to that team.

As a first phase of exploration (in January I think), I wanted to see if there was something to the 4-E logo that we could simply take and modernize. I started on the icon, with the strategy to move on to typographic updates later if the mark had traction. It didn’t. Fairly early in the process, the senior management began hinting that the 4-E vision statement may change eventually and I didn’t want to go through this process all over again when it did. 4-E icons? Killed. Next?

During my first tenure at NewSpring I tried to establish solid branding based on an “N” icon. In retrospect, it was both too corporate-feeling and not well carried out in all applications. I didn’t know enough about branding to think through what would and wouldn’t work in applications like signage, wayfinding systems, collateral, etc. With a little more experience under my belt, I gave the “N” another go before I tried moving on to completely new concepts. I like both directions shown here, but ultimately, a key desire of the senior management came out after presenting these options: “we don’t want an icon at all.” So, we were going with a wordmark only. The typophile in me rejoiced.

Options 1 and 2 were concepts I felt like could be fully-realized in a large-scale branding effort. The simplicity and repetitive device of the slanted box/line could have uses in print and on screen, especially in regards to cropping photographic and video imagery in the confines of the rigidly-defined box slant. Option 3 was one of a multitude of “clever type” variations of the wordmark that, ultimately, didn’t serve any purpose other than cleverness (and decreased legibility.) Options 4 and 5 just… died. Option 6 was an effort to create a custom typeface, but our relatively short timeline for brand launch (the opening of our second campus in July) didn’t provide enough tweak time and honestly, there are so many fantastically talented typographers far more skilled than me, why even bother trying to create from scratch?

After a presentation of these concepts (and a few others), the other key desire of the decision-makers came to the surface: “we don’t want an icon, but we want something more than just text.” Maddening, right? Less than an icon/wordmark lockup, more than just a wordmark. Somewhere right in the middle was the logo that would stick.

These two logos rose to the top after a number of other presentations of “in-between” concepts. Both had traction with the decision-makers and both had typographic choices I felt like we could work with on a corporate identity/standards level (Whitney for Option 1 and Neutraface for Option 2).

The problem was they were both completely dependent on gradients in order to “read” right. One of the issues with our previous mark was that it turned every print job into a 5-color piece (4-color plus a metallic silver) and increased costs; a gradient logo would do the same, with the added headache of infinite press checks to see if the gradient was getting printed correctly. And even when tightly-managed, gradients can work well for web, on-screen applications and 4-color print jobs but they completely fall apart for branding applications on the outskirts of an organization. What happens to fax cover sheets? Internal documents printed b&w? Nametags printed by our check-in system that only allow for small bitmap images? That didn’t seem tenable or scalable for a church whose budget for graphics isn’t bottomless. I set to work to find another solution and our deadline with signage vendors for outdoors signs was closing in for the Greenville campus. Constraints are inspiring. Mostly.

I was starting to (rightly) fear and loathe the gradient. I hated that I hadn’t found a simple, more timeless, less-trendy solution in keeping with the logomakers I admire. I tried a two-color version of Option 1, with a clear break between the lowercase “g” and the tail, but it made the logo feel harsh and, in all honestly, looked like crap. I loved the typography feel of Option 1 (a heavily-tweaked version of the aforementioned Whitney), so I cut off the tail and started fresh with that wordmark as a base. I quickly landed on the 7 circles that dot the “i.” Utilizing the lowercase “i” dot to make a logo of some variety is clearly an oft-used device and I’m under no allusion that it is in any way original. This new option also ditched the “Church” tagline set in Whitney in favor of Berthold Akzidenz Grotesk Extended — a decision that would eventually set the tone for all our typography and signage.

An early version of this logo was presented at some point, and promptly rejected. Sad.

With deadlines encroaching and the knowledge that “if we were going to rebrand, we had to do it now” or waste thousands of dollars in signage and print collateral at new campuses, a final meeting was set to determine the logo. Options 1 and 2 were presented, in color for the first time (orange-y red, bright blue and light green options.) Also presented was the previously shot-down dotted “i” option. Tony and I decided to include the third option and press hard to sell it, feeling strongly it was the best solution (and that eventually the rest of the senior management would see that as well in the context of the rest of the identity.) That’s what I call back-up and employee cover, managers.

Option 2 was (rightly) deemed too corporate and cold (not too mention too “Welcome to the ancient pyramids of the 4th dynasty, tourists.” I got caught up in exploring the complementary angles of the “w” and the “n” and somehow made a monster.) Option 1 was the front-runner, but a hard sell landed us where we are today. In retrospect, I would have hated life if Option 1 would have won out. The identity options I’ve had with the final logo in terms of wayfinding, typography, a simple color palette for print/screen have been numerous and cohesive. Gradients wouldn’t have allowed that.

Posts will follow on the fallout of that logo decision, including typography, signage, standards guides, copywriting and the relaunch of Thanks for playing along.

I’m enjoying Zach De La Rocha’s new band One Day as a Lion.

Yesterday was Mrs. Blankenship’s birthday. As a part of the celebration, we got the pleasure of seeing Willie Nelson and B.B. King at Atlanta’s Chastain Park (such a great outdoor venue).

Also, either the camera or the memory card corrupted 90% of my photos, some of which are quite interesting. Also, former President Jimmy Carter is in this photo.

I don’t care if it’s a crappy camcorder bootleg from Thursday’s ComicCon, this teaser trailer for Tron 2 has me completely nerding out.

1. Mrs. Blankenship’s birthday
2. Tickets and backstage passes for Willie Nelson and B.B. King
3. Almost two weeks of ensuing time away from the office
4. Having my first magazine article published
5. Eating the first bell pepper from our garden

New blog home for Seattle’s own Invisible Creature.

I’m going to write a few longer posts later this week related to the rebranding process we just went through at NewSpring. Are there any specific questions you have (details or broader strategy)? I’ll try to incorporate some of them.

Testing out the WordPress iPhone App at home. No landscape mode for typing lacks merit, but setting up multiple accounts was easy and the interface is quite nice.

The WordPress iPhone App is now available in the App Store. I’m hoping this means that Notes to Self will get more attention from yours truly now.

Quote, “If you can guess how much money is in this bottle, I will send you an 11×14 print of your choice.” — Noah Kalina

The official Watchmen trailer is up on Apple. And by “official” I obviously mean “officially awesome.” It remains to be seen if they’ll capture the weight and greatness of the graphic novel from a storyline/character perspective (especially condensing a 12 chapter story into a film), but dang they’ve certainly nailed the way it should look. (More info on Watchmen at Wikipedia)

Alabama screenprint maestros Standard Deluxe will be getting a visit from the Blankenships and one Katie Brock today. Photos and commentary to follow.