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Catalogs for a shoe brand

Hoy catalogs.jpg

We were thrilled Hoy Shoe Co asked us to design catalogs for its iconic Salt Water and Sun-San sandals. We grew up with them!

The St. Louis-based company, with its roots in recycling leather for its footwear in the 1940s from World War II military boots, has surged in popularity in the past few years, becoming a brand sold at major retailers such as Nordstrom as well as independent boutiques around the globe. Growth has coincided with celebrities and their kids photographed wearing the classic sandals.

We upgraded the catalog from a six-panel brochure to a 20-page booklet for children’s sandals and a 12-page look book for women’s shoes. The additional space allows buyers to really see the stitching details in the soles and the wide range of colors.

The layout also gave us the room to drive home the land-and-sea duality of the sandals through hashtags — #beachtobar and #surfandturf — and headlines — “For Playing in the Waves and Walking in the Park” and “For a Day at the Beach and a Night on the Town.”

Hoy was so pleased with the outcome that they asked us to design business cards and other print materials.

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5 Signs it’s Time for a Website Redo

A website is one of your most important business assets because it’s available to everyone 24/7. Check out this stat: 75 percent of users judge the credibility of a website based on its design, according to Stanford University.

Wondering whether you need to update your website? If any of the following five problems sound familiar, it’s definitely time for tweaking and possibly an overhaul.

Loads slowly
If your website opens at the speed of a tortoise, you’re definitely not winning the website race.

There's a need for speed on a website. Nearly half of web users expect a site to load in 2 seconds or less, according to Kissmetrics. They tend to abandon a site that isn’t loaded within 3 seconds.

Overly large images and dense amounts of computer coding can weigh a website down.

Looks outdated
If you’ve jam-packed your website with tons of copy and a bazillion tiny photos, it’s time to redo.

The best practice is clean, easy-to-navigate design. This means snackable amounts of copy and curated, high-quality, relevant photos and graphics.

Not responsive
It’s not good if your website looks great on your desktop, but not so hot on mobile.

You want your website to be responsive to any device the user chooses — now more than ever. Mobile and tablet usage on the web exceeded desktop usage worldwide for the first time in October 2016, according to according to StatCounter. And mobile use will just keep on climbing.

Low conversions
If you’re not getting much action on your website — low newsletter signups, low sales, low client leads — it’s time to strategize and perhaps redesign.

Can’t update
If you have to constantly call your web developer to make minor content updates on your site because it’s too difficult to do yourself, try a new system.

With the availability of so many easy-to-use content management system (CMS) platforms including WordPress and Squarespace, as well as e-commerce systems, there’s no reason you shouldn’t be able to do the simple stuff on your own.

Want to discuss your website? Let’s grab coffee soon!

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Under the Microscope: “Abstract: The Art of Design” on Netflix

Courtesy of Netflix

Courtesy of Netflix

A graphic designer recently told me how lucky we are to be living in the Age of Design, how so many businesses and even individuals are using design thinking to inform their decisions.

While I’m a champion of design, I’m unconvinced. If you ask most people who aren’t designers to explain design, they’ll merely scratch the surface and say design is about making things look better. True, smart design improves form, but there’s still a lot of work to be done in convincing the masses that good design is critical for improving the quality of our lives.

The Netflix documentary series “Abstract: The Art of Design” goes a good way to making that case through eight episodes, each focusing on a different designer, a superstar in his or her discipline: architecture, automotive design, footwear design, graphic design, illustration, interior design, photography and stage design.

There’s a lot of stylization, as one might expect from a series about design. But there are glimmers of insight. Tinker Hatfield, the Nike designer who helped popularize the Air Jordan brand (bonus: there are interviews with Michael Jordan in this episode), provides an astute definition of design and how it differs from art. 

“My perception of art is that it is really the ultimate self expression from a creative individual. For me as a designer, it is not the ultimate goal to be self-expressive. The end goal is to solve a problem for someone else. And hopefully it looks great to someone else. And it’s cool to someone else.”

Solving problems for someone else is the essence of design. For Hatfield, it’s to help improve the overworked feet of athletes. For stage designer Es Devlin, it’s about connecting audiences in large venues with the performers, and making small venues more multidimensional despite their limited spaces.

Sometimes design solves problems so elegantly that it feels like magic. Illustrator Christoph Niemann, who designs magazine covers and books, notices the unexpected beauty in everyday objects and playfully gives his audience a fresh perspective and a new way of looking at things. He gives us much-needed reasons to smile in this overly serious world.  

However, “Abstract” is more celebratory than explanatory, a soufflé of a series rather than a full-course meal. It is enjoyable, and indeed, some episodes warrant repeat viewing, especially Niemann’s and Hatfield’s.

If there is a second season, let’s hope it digs deeper, asks more insightful questions and makes us care more about design. The series signifies we’re on the cusp of the Age of Design, but we have quite a ways before reaching it.

Here’s my take on the episodes in order of effectiveness in the power of design, “1” being the most magical:

8. Platon, Photographer
His work is recognizable — black-and-white photographs, usually on magazine covers, that show celebrities in a different light. They all seem paradoxically powerful and approachable, including Colin Powell, whose session “Abstract” documents. Platon himself seems a little too cool to be likable.

7. Es Devlin, Stage Designer
While I find set and experience design fascinating and Devlin’s work looks fantastic, this episode lacked real insight into what motivates her. The episode tried, even interviewing her parents.

6. Bjarke Engels, Architect
This young starchitect is a household name in his native Norway and is becoming famous in New York and other parts of the world for his unconventional structure shapes. For example, his firm designed a power plant topped with a ski slope.

5. Ralph Gilles, Automotive Designer
His story is an interesting one. When he was 14 years old, a family member sent one of his sketches to Chrysler chief Lee Iacocca. The design director wrote Gilles back, suggesting design schools. Flash forward to now and Gilles is global head designer for Fiat Chrysler. However, I wanted to hear more from Gilles about decision making when it came to designing a car.

4. Paula Scher, Graphic Designer
The opening scene is delicious. She’s walking through the streets of New York City, looking at its myriad signs. She shows that typography is crucial for making a sign — and therefore a business — stand out. “Typography is painting with words. It’s my crack.” She created identity for the Public Theater, making it “New Yorkish, loud and proud.” She also makes fun of the Boston album cover she designed in the 1970s calling it “dumb.” But through typography, she gave bands and albums of that era their identity, their brand, before that was a thing.

3. Ilse Crawford, Interior Designer
I love her distinction between interior decorating and design: “We spend 87 percent of our lives inside buildings. How they are designed affects how we feel, how we behave.” She focuses on people in her design process: interrogation, empathy, then imagination. She points out how design is not strictly visual, it’s sensual and about well being. She is charged with reimagining Ikea’s cafes. I’m anxious to see the results.

2. Tinker Hafield, Footwear Designer
This episode truly shows the professional progression of a designer more than any other episode. He grew up an athlete who trained with one of Nike’s founders in college. He also studied architecture. He is an innovator, and it will be interesting to see what becomes of EARL (Electro Adaptive Reactive Lacing) or self-lacing shoes for Nike.

1. Christoph Niemann, Illustrator
From beginning to end, the Niemann piece was enjoyable. I loved how he drew a cyclist on a car window that sped along the streets of New York. In storytelling, one of the oldest sayings is “show, don’t tell.” Niemann doesn’t reveal much about his process through his words, but through his work. His work is worth following, and it lifts the spirit because it embodies the joy of discovery and imagination.

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7 Big Reasons to Love Email Marketing 

To say email marketing can be challenging is an understatement. Coming up with content, writing it, designing it, testing it and landing just the right subject line are super time consuming.

But we’ve seen the benefits of email marketing when it’s done right, and there are many reasons we’re hearts-and-flowers, head-over-heels about it.

1.    Return on investment

There’s a 3,800 percent return on investment for email marketing. In dollars, that means on average, businesses capture $38 for every $1 spent on email marketing, according to the Data and Marketing Association.

2.    More effective than social media

Nearly everyone has an email address, but not everyone has a Facebook or Twitter account. Measured, email marketing converts to 40 times more sales than Facebook or Twitter, according to McKinsey.

3.    Links to website

Emails link directly to your website — your 24/7 brand ambassador — at multiple points vs. one link on a social media post that most of your customers probably won’t see.

4.    Direct reach

You can reach your customer directly, instead of indirectly through social media, through email. And you can boost your email’s impact through personalization. Personalized email messages improve click-through rates by an average of 14 percent and conversions by 10 percent, according to Aberdeen.  

5.    Audience tracking

By reading your email campaign’s report, you can see what people are clicking on. This fosters multiple benefits, including informing the content and design of future emails and client leads.

6.   Segmentation

You can tailor an email to different audiences based on their product preferences, buying history, geographic location and much more. This increases open rates and clicks.

7.    Regular communication

Emails make it easier than social media or printed materials to contact your customer weekly or monthly.

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Celebrate Your Business: Let Us Float You Some Ideas

Pens are usually a pretty pedestrian promotional product. But floaty pens?  Who doesn’t smile at a little doodad making its slow, deliberate way from one end of the tiny world in a writing instrument to the other? The crowd goes wild!

We enjoyed designing not one but two of these gems for clients in 2016, the 70th anniversary of the floaty pen. Invented in 1946 by Peder Eskesen, the original floating action pen is still manufactured in Denmark to this day.

Rosin Preservation, a national historic preservation firm based in Kansas City, wanted to mark its 10th anniversary with a floaty pen and turned to us to design it. Because the Kansas City streetcar debuted the same year, we added its modern likeness as the float. The pen background contains the Kansas City skyline, a mix of contemporary and old buildings reused by new, thriving businesses that speak to what Rosin does through its consultation and tax credit expertise.

Fittingly, owner Elizabeth Rosin has collected floaty pens for years — her collection was once even exhibited at Crown Center. She loves how the miniature scenes instantly create a sense of place, and the sliding floats make them playful but useful toys all can engage with.

To kick off the launch of its new website, the American Institute of Architects Kansas City commissioned us later in the year to create a floaty pen. The floating logo across Kansas City landmarks perfectly conveys the expertise of its membership while still being fun!

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Case Study Week Six: A Two-Pronged Promotion

This Ford Motor Co. assembly plant, built in 1916, is now a 21c Museum Hotel.

This Ford Motor Co. assembly plant, built in 1916, is now a 21c Museum Hotel.

Postcards are always fun to receive, especially now that the mailman doesn't deliver personal mail as often as he once did. So when Rosin Preservation approached us about a marketing campaign that would show the impact their projects have had on their surrounding communities, we turned to vintage architectural postcards for inspiration.

These cards celebrate how vacant, neglected buildings can be revitalized and repurposed into modern-day businesses. These businesses are brick-and-mortar testimonials to the value of historic preservation, and show how preservation is a powerful force for positive change. Phase One of the campaign highlighted three unique successes:

  • A shuttered Ford car assembly plant became a 21c Museum Hotel with an art gallery in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma.
  • The deteriorating former Cosby Hotel was saved from the wrecking ball, and was renovated into an office complex, deli and bakery in downtown Kansas City.
  • A vacant school building in Kansas City was converted into senior apartments.

The printed cards pack an even a bigger punch by driving recipients to a companion landing page on Rosin Preservation’s website. By showing before-and-after photos and data points about jobs, living spaces and cultural attractions created in the transformed spaces, the campaign vividly illustrates how the company impacts their clients, the buildings they save and the communities they serve.

As we said when we started this Case Study series, when we win, our clients win, and when they score, we do, too. We're gratified to report that the campaign is already paying dividends and has been declared a success. We'll be launching Phase Two in the first quarter of 2017!

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Case Study Week Five: Public Relations

Numerous articles spotlighting Rosin Preservation have been published in the Kansas City Business Journal, The Kansas City Star, magazines and other newspapers.

Numerous articles spotlighting Rosin Preservation have been published in the Kansas City Business Journal, The Kansas City Star, magazines and other newspapers.

Rosin Preservation totally gets the modern age of public relations, and the awesome results keep rolling in: extensive media coverage, several awards, increased online traffic and robust lead generation.

Five years ago, promotions efforts meant emailing a press release. Now mastering integrated digital marketing also is a must. 

Some of Rosin Preservation’s PR successes stemmed from the tried-and-true press release. But they probably reached the next level because the firm’s digital engine was running at full speed, all of its parts working like they should.

Website

Sure, we already discussed websites last week. But we can’t stress enough how important it is to have an above-average website for promotions efforts. The first thing a potential customer or member of the media is going to do is Google your business.

An effective website spotlights a company’s benefits — not simply its features. We designed Rosin Preservation’s website with a focus on an interactive map of projects they have managed across the country. These case studies vividly illustrate the value of the firm’s expertise. Since the site update, monthly average pageviews have tripled.

Social media

Rosin Preservation already had a substantial following on Facebook, so we developed a strategic plan to maximize the value of that platform and added Instagram to the mix. Before-and-after images of redeveloped properties on #TransformationTuesday—we double the impact by utilizing both channels—show the powerful results of the historic tax credit process that our client guides its clients through.

Email newsletters

Social media is great for engaging with your audience, but it has major limitations: algorithms that users cannot control (only a small percentage of a company’s followers will see your posts) and longevity (tweets have an average shelf life of just 14 minutes).

Furthermore, not all clients will engage with every branch of your company’s outreach. But—and this is important!—everyone uses email. 

Rosin Preservation already had a digital newsletter, but MAD Creative redesigned its look and content with the specific intention of client education, value promotion and increasing web traffic.

Next week we're on holiday, but we'll kick off 2017 by wrapping up our case study with a two-part promotions plan that combines print and digital marketing.

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Case Study Week Four: A New Website

RP_laptop.jpg

Today’s websites need to say what a business is all about in just a few seconds, so tight, bright copy and striking visuals are critical. Guided by these imperatives, we focused on two primary goals in developing Rosin Preservation's home on the web:

1. Create an inviting presence that draws visitors in and invites them to linger and learn.

Rosin Preservation advocates for the maintenance, use and rehabilitation of the built environment. Much to their credit, they've walked the walk, redeveloping their own historic property in Kansas City's East Crossroads. The expression of that authority starts on their website’s front-door landing page, graced by a gorgeous photo of one of the building’s most dramatic features: its fully exposed, metal-trussed barrel-vault ceiling. Muted tones and natural lighting artfully celebrate the beautiful bones of their historic space and provide a meaningful backdrop for the company's logo and welcome message. There are no distractions on the page, not even a navigation bar. Instead, there’s simply an elegant invitation to enter the site and explore the firm’s work.

2. Establish the firm as a powerful influence, in their industry, throughout the U.S.

Inspired by pins on travel maps, we created an interactive map to showcase the firm’s projects throughout the country. Projects are filtered by category — tax credits, National Register and so on — and feature building and site photographs, year of completion and case studies. Zoom out and visitors will see that the company has managed projects stretching from western Colorado to the Empire State Building!

While the interactive map offers ample evidence of the breadth and depth of the company’s expertise, we needed supporting pages to share details about the people who make it all work and the specific services they offer. To that end, we built out pages including staff bios, blog posts and media mentions, each one crafted to support the overarching website goals. The happy result: triple the web traffic on the new site!

Undertaking a brand uplift and launching a full website redesign are demanding projects, but they're not an end in themselves. To reap the benefits, businesses need to promote these efforts. To that end, we’ll write next week about public relations. 

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Case Study Week Three: Typography

Business cards and letterhead for Rosin Preservation. And a floaty pen! Because it's the 21st century, we created a digital version of the letterhead as well.

Business cards and letterhead for Rosin Preservation. And a floaty pen! Because it's the 21st century, we created a digital version of the letterhead as well.

Some design decisions are only arrived at after hours, days, even weeks of pondering, trying, failing and trying again. Others times they arrive at first blush, and are so naturally right that there’s no point in laboring any further. Our font section for Rosin Preservation followed the latter path.

They were using Helvetica, a sturdy typographic warhorse if ever there was one. We’re not opposed to that Swiss classic (both Target and Toyota, to cite two high-profile examples, employ it to excellent effect), but so many designers have defaulted to it for so many decades we’ve largely struck it from our list. 

Our font choice, Gotham, was developed in the year 2000 and achieved almost instant universal acceptance in the design community. It is so widely used today that we even refer to it as the Helvetica of the aughts (Our comparison is a compliment, not an insult!) The typeface has two antecedents, really: the hand-cut and hand-painted signs that pepper the New York streetscape; and the no-nonsense, geometric letterforms (think Futura) that were key components of the vocabulary of building and architectural signage in large American cities during the middle decades of the 20th century. We feel it's a perfect synthesis of geometric and humanist forms, and perfectly expresses our client’s historic preservation mission. Even better, it comes in a huge variety of widths and weights, permitting endless variety when developing a suite of branded materials.

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Case Study Week Two: Color

Once we got signoff on the logo design, we started developing color palettes. Rosin Preservation’s original color scheme was light blue paired with deep brown. In thinking through the update, we knew we wanted the color statement to be serious but not too corporate, and we wanted to extend the graphic personality of the logo styling, and express the personality and desires of the client.

A selection of graphic designs that inspired us as we developed a color statement for Rosin Preservation.

A selection of graphic designs that inspired us as we developed a color statement for Rosin Preservation.

Inspiration can come from anywhere. With its Deco vibe, we looked to 30s, 40s and 50s-era inspiration including book covers, travel posters, matchbooks and similar ephemera for color schemes. During this process our client showed us a picture from one of her projects that she loved, in particular noting the teal color on the door. One thing to remember is that color is not static and never exists by itself. How we perceive any single hue is forever influenced by its relationship to the other colors that are inevitably around it. We saw the teal, but also its relationship to the rusted steel frame surrounding it, the bluish-grey graffiti on top of it and the bricks and mortar adjacent to it.

The client's photo that led us to our final solution. 

The client's photo that led us to our final solution. 

This was precisely the inspiration we needed. Sampling directly from the photo generated a selection of colors that we then saturated and finessed into the the result you see above. By using colors that were inspired by historic building materials, and the patina they acquire over the years, we were able to develop a color scheme that feels modern, is visually pleasing and—importantly!—has purpose. The icing on the cake? The client is thrilled!

In our effort to keep these posts brief, we’ll talk about typography and share business cards and letterhead next week.

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Case Study Week One: Logo Redesign

Most of our projects begin with a clean sheet of paper and a lot of questions about brand promise, company mission and messaging, personality, goals and target audiences. This one was different. Having been in business for 10 years, Rosin Preservation had an established identity that they were proud of. And they didn’t want to confuse clients with a completely new design language because their core business wasn’t changing. They simply wanted a facelift, projecting a sophistication that would celebrate their decade milestone, honor their hard-won successes and feel of-a-piece with their new offices.

We began by deconstructing their existing logo. It had a distinctive '40s-era movie vibe (their first office was in Kansas City’s old Film Row block) that had graphic impact and was well-liked, but some of the letterforms were slightly inconsistent in line weight and spacing; the perspective lines that created the dimensional look didn’t all vanish to the same point; and that same perspective created a top-down point of view that felt a little awkward.

Take a look at the attached graphic for our design analysis and solution.


1. The dimensional shapes create letters of varying thickness and a point of view that looks down on the company name. 2. The incline upon which the name stands is too steep, creating an uncomfortable reverse rake and visual instability. 3. The “Preservation, LLC” text line feels incongruous with the hand-drawn “Rosin." Optically it is too heavy, and its placement nearly slides out of the circular form, creating visual tension and forcing the P to be clipped. 4. The lower arc does not precisely follow the curve of the upper arc, and truncates without apparent purpose. 5. Pulling the name out of the mark quickly reveals inconsistencies in spacing and line weight.

1. The dimensional shapes create letters of varying thickness and a point of view that looks down on the company name.

2. The incline upon which the name stands is too steep, creating an uncomfortable reverse rake and visual instability.

3. The “Preservation, LLC” text line feels incongruous with the hand-drawn “Rosin." Optically it is too heavy, and its placement nearly slides out of the circular form, creating visual tension and forcing the P to be clipped.

4. The lower arc does not precisely follow the curve of the upper arc, and truncates without apparent purpose.

5. Pulling the name out of the mark quickly reveals inconsistencies in spacing and line weight.

The redesigned logo addresses each of the trouble spots that we identified in the original. We hand-drew the Rosin name, making sure that the letterforms were uniform in appearance and optically consistent without feeling mechanical. Set on a gentler slope, we’ve given them a more heroic stance — we are now looking up to the company — and set ‘Preservation’ in a contemporary font that is graphically sympathetic and is set at the same angle. The circular forms are now complete. Offset and divided off-center, their proportions maintain a pleasing balance while creating an engaging interplay of positive and negative spaces. 

The redesigned logo addresses each of the trouble spots that we identified in the original.

We hand-drew the Rosin name, making sure that the letterforms were uniform in appearance and optically consistent without feeling mechanical. Set on a gentler slope, we’ve given them a more heroic stance — we are now looking up to the company — and set ‘Preservation’ in a contemporary font that is graphically sympathetic and is set at the same angle.

The circular forms are now complete. Offset and divided off-center, their proportions maintain a pleasing balance while creating an engaging interplay of positive and negative spaces. 


The new logo is crisp and contemporary. It honors the historical framework that is Rosin Preservation’s expertise while reflecting its 21st-century ethos. It offers a respectful, evolutionary (not revolutionary!) response to the client's needs. It nods to the past while positioning the firm for another decade of success, and establishes the groundwork upon which a unified graphic statement of print, digital and environmental platforms was built.

One final note: we always begin our design process in black and white because our objective at this point is to concentrate on form and legibility. Once we’re confident we have that nailed and receive client sign-off, we start exploring color palettes and supporting assets. We're writing about this next!

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CASE STUDY: A SUCCESS STORY

We don’t think of the firms we work with so much as “customers” or “clients” as we do partners. Why make the distinction? Because one of our core beliefs is that our successes are linked. Our wins are mutually beneficial. When they score, we score. When we’re successful, they are, too.

One partner that we’ve had the privilege to work with, Rosin Preservation, took a big step not long ago when they bought and rehabbed their own building. Concurrently they hired us to manage a brand uplift, including a new graphic identity, a new website, print and digital outreach, and public relations. The happy result? Extensive media coverage, several awards, increased online traffic and robust lead generation!

Over the next several weeks we’re going to walk through that project, addressing the challenges, the problem solving and the process behind each step, and its impact. We have a lot to share and insights that we're certain our readers will benefit from. We hope you enjoy the journey!

Next week. Logo redesign
Week 2. Color
Week 3. Typography
Week 4. A new website
Week 5. Public relations
Week 6: A two-pronged promotion

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