Archive for the ‘Graphic Design’ Category
Ever wonder what goes into creating custom icons?
Check out the process behind creating custom icons for our new website at
Here’s the juicy peach truth…
We had never heard of Creative South before this year. We were just looking for a design or web related conference within driving distance from good ole’ Northeast, Florida that wouldn’t break the bank. Thankfully, we ran across Creative South and purchased tickets before the event sold out!
Trey Ingram, our man behind the creative arts, and I decided to take the trip together.
From St. Augustine to Jacksonville and
then off to Columbus, GA we went…
We were excited and ready to hear from some Amazing talent on Day 1.
The first day was split up with three different tracks each hour — Trey & I tried to split up for the maximum benefit. Here’s a few shots from the trip:
Up bright and early on Sunday, Trey and I give our thoughts on the event so far…
Needless to say, Creative South was not disappointing.
Day 2 started a little later and had two keynote speakers rather than the multiple sessions from day 1: James White (from SignalNoise) and the very unique Aaron Draplin from DDC. These guys displayed incredible talent, told some awesome stories, and shared great insight. Simply put, it was awesome.
Most of all, the people at Creative South, from the speakers to the attendees were just flat awesome. Everyone was friendly, open, and plain excited to be involved.
In hindsight, the biggest regret was that we didn’t take our whole team — we’ll change that for Creative South 2014. See you next year Columbus creatives!
One more thing — what did we think about Columbus, GA? Well, here’s my thoughts on this southern belle of a town:
Every couple of years, especially with as many cool logos as we get to make for our clients, we get the itch to update our own brand. We’ve had the same general look since 2003 with a refresh of the logo in 2009. For 2013, we wanted more than just a refresh, we needed a total rebrand of our logo, website, printed materials. . .everything!
Here’s what we started with…
Change to a brand can be hard, but it’s important to stay current and fresh — especially when you’ve been around for over a decade like we have (that’s wise old geezer in computer years).
For our redesign, we wanted to bring a modern feel to the company. We wanted something that was more eye-catching and trendy. Here is a quick walkthrough of the process we undertook in order to arrive at our new design.
1. A Look In the Mirror
My first objective was to take a closer look at the current logo, deciding what made it successful/ineffective. This step was vital, because I learned that some things, such as our main color blue, and the name itself, would be left untouched. The negative aspects I found with this logo were things such as the overbearing width of the text when it was situated side-by-side. This caused an awkward layout when we positioned the logo in diverse web and print formats. Another negative was the small “x” icon that was hanging on the end of the word “extensions.” We had held on to the X from our 2003 design, but it was finally time to say good bye to an old friend.
2. Researching Trends
Next, I took to the internet and some favorite sites to look into current logo trends. We do this for many of the projects that we take on, so why should our own redesign be any different. Through my research of inspirational sites such as Dribbble.com and Logopond.com, I kept in mind some key elements for the new look. We wanted the logo to be simple, yet bold. Artistic and fun, but also professional. Having these descriptive goals really helped when soaking up my inspiration. It’s important to have a clear idea of what you want a logo to say about you and your company, which is why we have clients fill out forms, and pick out inspirational examples when we take on a logo project.
3. Get Sketchin’
Before I fire up Illustrator or Photoshop, I always get out my trusty sketchbook. In my opinion, this is the most efficient way to get ideas from my brain to a visual format. It makes it much easier to see if an idea will pan out or not before spending time with finesse work. I have compiled some images from my sketch journey that shows how I arrived at our final logo. I first toyed with the idea of a banner that originated from the tail of the “g,” and then wrapped around to house the word “extensions.” Then I tried the words, still stacked, but without the banner.
Here are a few of the MANY sketch concepts that we went through before getting serious…
My next attempt was to make the letters all capital, and much bolder in weight.
We even tried a few digital versions with color this time around:
This ended up looking too much like graffiti art in style, so I went back to using lowercase letters. It was bold, and artisitc, but lacked the professional feel that I thought our logo deserved.
4. Take a Break
Finally, after countless hours of looking at my sketches from different angles, I decided to take a break. The importance in any project to taking a moment to get a cup of coffee, take a deep breathe, do some office yoga, is often overlooked. But often the space and perspective you get from taking a step back can be just waht you needed. This step back really helped focus my mind on what the logo needed, and my final sketch turned out to be the winner.
5. Finalize that Graphic!
Hallelujah! The sketch was approved, and the next step was to bring it to life in Illustrator. For all of you who have spent time drawing with a bezier pen tool, you know that it takes a considerable amount of time to draw custom typography. An artist’s eye must be trained to look for variations in the weight of a letter’s stroke, and many more similar details. Overall, we are very pleased with the way our logo has evolved, and we are already working diligently to provide a fresh new website home for the new logo.
Here’s the final version — we’re really excited about the final result:
We’re now working to integrate our brand across all of our mediums. We’ve already updated our Facebook page, Twitter account, Instragram page, and our business cards (below). We updated the logo on the website you’re looking at right now, but we’re working on a total redesign of the site which should launch in the next couple of months (we’re really excited about it).
Here are a few variations of the logo we’ll use in different locations, along with an icon piece we use for profile pics on social media and other locations.
Here’s how the brand transitioned into our business cards:
If you’re looking for a new logo or a complete rebrand, we’d love to help. Just contact us and we’ll put together some options to fit your needs.
It’s natural to assume, when it comes to Internet marketing and business web design, that larger companies have a big advantage over smaller ones. After all, they have the budgets, mailing lists, and staff to handle any challenge… so that means they should have an easier time winning customers, doesn’t it?
That’s partly true, but small companies actually have an important advantage on their side – one that can be even more decisive: Most tiny businesses and self-employed professionals see (or least talk to) some of their customers every day. The bigger companies all have customers, as well, but most decision-makers and executives don’t interact with buyers on a regular basis.
That means smaller businesses can gather important information, such as:
Who their customers actually are. As simple as it sounds, lots of bigger companies don’t actually know – in a specific sense – who buys their products and services. In fact, they spend millions on focus groups just to find out. Smaller companies don’t have that challenge, and can pinpoint their perfect customers more directly, making their marketing more efficient.
Why buyers come to them, instead of the competition. In order to be successful in online marketing, it helps to know why your customers buy in general, and why they buy from you specifically. Again, this can be a challenge in large organizations, where several levels of sales and marketing are engaged at once. In a small business, though, it’s easy to distill it down to the main marketing messages.
How the customers’ needs are changing. This is a huge advantage, since it often takes a big company months or years to change gears and directions, whereas a business owner or self-employed person can switch gears in a few days. The faster you can adapt to your customers’ changing needs, the easier it is to get out in front of your larger competitors.
How do these advantages play out in business web design and online marketing? That’s easy – savvy owners add pages, blog posts, social media specials, and more to reflect the personal nature of their relationships, their understanding of the market, and their perspective on where the industry is headed.
When it comes down to it, smaller businesses tend to be more agile, and more informed. Now is the perfect time to talk with a member of our team and see how we can help you make the most of those advantages in your next business website.
Today, with heavy hearts but grateful spirits, we are saddened by the sudden and quick passing of our old friend “X”. He has been a faithful and good friend to Design Extensions since 2003. In 2009, X lost a little weight around the edges, but in 2013, he’s fading into distant memory.
He’ll always be remembered as a stable, while somewhat confusing icon piece here at Design Extensions. Few ever really knew what he stood for — was it an X? wires connecting together? the internet super highway? an alien spacecraft? Maybe we’ll never know.
X will remain in a few places over the next few weeks as we transition to new business cards, brochures, social icons, and eventually an all new website (for now, he’ll even be replaced here).
The original version from 2003 is below for your viewing pleasure along it’s upgrade from 2009.
A moment of silence, please…………………..
(Side note, and slightly inappropriate on an obituary, but X’s replacement will be showcased on an all new blog post showing how we got to the new look and more soon. For now, you can see it on our Facebook page at http://facebook.com/designextensions )
Vrrroooomm! That is the sound my car makes as I pass a local bike shop on my way back home. As I glance out my window I notice that this store could use a design upgrade. The signage out front is disheveled and worn, and the logo is portrayed as a simple block-letter typeface. I could just chalk this up as a loss for local business and continue jamming out to my radio…but it’s too late. My mind is already working to provide a solution that will enhance their logo brand. With my gears in motion I start the problem-solving process with a few questions:
1. Is there room for improvement in the overall design?
2. How can this store better communicate what they offer?
3. Is there a more effective way to appeal to their target audience?
This exercise is really a great way to keep your creative mind sharp. Many times, I will follow up my thoughts by recording ideas onto my mobile phone and then putting them down as sketches when I get home. Obviously, this can be practiced anywhere you choose to roam..like the grocery store, the mall, or just out at a restaurant. I have also found that the more I practice this method, the more improvement I see in my everyday design work.
There is a massive need for better design, and it can be seen just about everywhere. But wait, the fun doesn’t stop here! I would also encourage you to reign in those drive-by ideas and bring them to that business owner’s attention. After you have finessed the design mockups, have them ready to present with a price in mind. This is your creative work, after all. Some owners will have the attitude that they don’t need your design, and they have been “getting by” with what they currently have for quite a few years. If you have already defended your work and explained how it could improve their brand, then just smile and walk away with the knowledge that you earned some valuable practice. Trust me, if your design work is solid, then you will eventually meet the business owner who is impressed enough to not only buy your new and improved design…but will also have you do all their future work, too. So keep your eyes open…and your eyes on the road (if you are behind the wheel)!
I recently had the opportunity to attend the Front-End Design Conference, with our Creative Director, Trey Ingram. It was held at the Palladium Theatre in St. Pete Florida. The speakers ranged from designers, programmers, and everything in between. The conference was well-organized and the speakers had a great range of topics. One of the main themes was the interest, and propagation of responsive web design for mobile users. There were different opinions as to the best practices, but all agreed it is the future of the web, and the way we use it.
One of the most interesting speeches was in regards to the way the world changed with the invention of the automobile, and how subsequently the screen is the game changer for our generation. The world adapted and the way we do life was forever changed. Similarly the screen has revolutionized our lives in almost every way. And with advances in size, and cost it will continue to do so.
The best benefit from the weekend was the sense of excitement that everyone leaving seemed to have. It truly is a great time to be a designer, and with the prevalence of the internet, it is especially a great time to be in web design. For designers, and programmers, if you get the chance to attend the Front-End Design Conference next year it will be sure to be a pleasure.
Fact: It seems like everywhere you look there is a QR code popping up.
What’s a QR code? It’s those strange, square, barcode looking things that marketing agencies and “pr gurus” everywhere are telling their clients they must include on everything. I even saw a company with a GIANT QR code on a billboard this week, who’s idea was that?
There is no question QR codes are being used more and more by advertisers, but the big question is, are they being used by users?
There are all kinds of statistics out there, but here are some facts that drive me to believe QR codes are not actually being used by most mobile users currently.
- iOS Devices (iPhone, iPod Touch, iPad, etc.) take up over 60% of mobile web traffic. (Net Applications Mobile/Tablet Top Operating System Share Trend Nov ’09 – Oct ’11)
- No iOS device comes pre-installed with a QR code reader, meaning users need to download an app to scan and use QR codes.
- The highest ranked, free, QR code reader in the app store is #35. There are only 2 QR code readers currently in the top 200 apps!
Based on this data, it seems pretty clear that the majority of mobile users are NOT using QR codes on a regular basis.
Maybe that will change in the future, but in most of the current examples I have seen, QR codes are not a huge time saver and seem like a clumsy solution to quick input of data and sharing information.
With that said, QR codes are very easy to setup. There are tons of web sites and tools that will let you create free QR codes and put them on anything you want. Don’t let anyone fool you into believing they are expensive or complex to create.
That’s just our opinion, what’s yours?
We rely on pictures to convey meaning and emotion, to tell stories where words fail, and the internet is no exception to this. Product images, biography photos, interesting photographic headers are all used on websites to help “sell”. It does not matter what your website is selling there is hardly a product or service out there that cannot benefit from great photos.
Customer Supplied Photographs
Perhaps you, or a relative is a hobbyist photographer. This is one of the lowest cost options for images on your website, but results do vary. With the availability and popularity of consumer digital cameras, this is a path many choose. While it is a lower cost option than hiring a professional photographer, but more personalized than stock photography it is also of the least “quality” options. Some of the industries best suited for using customer supplied photographs, are landscaping, construction, and other outdoor companies, where the ruld of photography are more forgiving and there is more available light.
Stock photography is purchased for use on a website from a stock photography company. These companies; check, and sometimes rank images on quality and categorize them on many factors. It makes finding the “right” photo much easier. Prices for stock photography can range from a couple of dollars per image to upwards of $100 for very high quality work, or work that is by a master photographer. . . There is stock photography for almost any business out there, and this is a great option if you are not selling a highly personalized product or service, and is great for when you just need a couple of images to finish out a website design.
Hiring a Professional Photographer
This is genrerally the most expensive option, but by all accounts one of the best. If you are selling a highly personalized product or service, then this is the only option. If you have a storefront, or physical business that you will be enticing people to visit from your website this is also one of the best options. It is also great for bio photos of yourself, and your employees. Professional photographers combine the quality of stock photography with the personalization of taking your own photos. Professional photographers know how to “sell” ideas, not just take pictures.
If a picture speaks a thousand words, what are the photos on your website saying? Design Extensions has solutions when it comes to the images that you use on your website. We have professional relationships with photographers in many disciplines, (even one on our staff) and would love to help you make the web a more beautiful place.
If you are a Mac (or Android) user looking for a great way to take screenshots and mark up notes, comics, or sketches on those screenshots or images, look no further than Skitch. It’s a FREE tool that we use everyday and love.
They were recently acquired by the also very popular EverNote app. It will be interesting to see what kind of integration happens with these two products in the coming months.
You can check it out at http://skitch.com/ You can thank us later (or in the comments).