Our perspective on branding and graphics, tools we find useful, case histories and fun facts on design in the 2 dimensional realm.

diy tip: color matching

diy tip: color matching


You've found an image that persuasively communicates your brand, and now you want to build a website around it.  Here's how you extract the color palette from that image so that you can build frames, backgrounds and text that matches (cut and paste the link into your browser after you read this):


You'll have to sign up to the site in order to use the tool, but this involves no more than establishing a user name and password.  Once you're signed up, navigate to the "photocopa" page, click "photo" (just under "publish" at the top right), and type in the url of the image you want to use.  You instantly get a range of colors found in the image, expressed as small samples to the right on your screen.  Pick on various samples or on the image itself to create a palette at the bottom left.  Clicking a small icon at the top right of each palette swatch gives you the Hex, RGB and HSV codes.

If you ever wondered how graphic designers matched color, there's your answer.

diy tip: typography

diy tip: typography


So...the thought of hiring a graphic designer drives you crazy, but you need to figure out what typefaces to use for your brand identity.  Typefaces add the emotion and individuality to what we say in print.  If you're at the point of choosing fonts, you've hopefully already defined your brand personality.  Your typeface will want to align with and evoke that personality.

Here's one simple (sort of) 5 step approach to selecting a typeface:

First, define your utilization.
2 basic uses for type:
a. headers and titles and slogans that are typically shorter, larger and convey lots of personality
b. body text that offers explanation or detail, and is usually smaller & may come in high volumes

Second, define your category or classification of type.  Here's one approach:
a. sans serif (straightforward, no squiggles, easy to read at small sizes, great for body text).
a1. Geometric (pure geometric forms, colder, more precise)
examples: Helvetica, Univers, Futura, Avante Garde, Akzidenz Grotesk, Franklin Gothic, Gotham
a2. Humanist (just enough subtle tuning to feel man-made instead of machine-generated)
examples: Gill Sans, Frutiger, Myriad, Optima, Verdana

b. serif (oozing personality, plenty of flourishes, most suited for headers/titles/slogans)
b1. Old Style (classic forms often referencing calligraphy)
examples: Jenson, Bembo, Palatino, Garamond
b2. Transitional and Modern (mid to late 1800s: sharper, more geometric)
examples: Times New Roman, Baskerville, Bodoni, Didot
b3. Slab (Simple forms wearing heavy shoes)
examples: Rockwell, Clarendon, Memphis

Third, find your typeface.
a. If your medium is primarily or exclusively electronic, and you are very concerned with retaining the integrity of your design when viewed by web browsers, consider restricting your typeface selection to websafe fonts: arial, comic sans, courier new, georgia, impact, palatino,
tahoma, times new roman, trebuchet ms, verdana

b. if you are comfortable with having some computers substitute other typefaces for those you select, or if you present everything design-sensitive as an image instead of as type, or if your medium is not primarily electronic, then consider the following approaches to selection:

1. If you are restricting your search to typefaces loaded on your computer, go to wordmark.it.
1a. Load your computer's typefaces into the program as instructed.
1b. Where it says "Wordmark", type in the title or phrase you want to use.
Below, you will see your phrase depicted in every typeface you have on your computer, ready for your selection.  There are additional controls on the menu bar to modify appearances.

2. If a larger world of typeface possibilities are of interest, do a websearch for "fonts".  There is a very large universe of foundries and markets for fonts you can purchase, and there is a very large field of free fonts not necessarily optimized for all uses or available for commercial use, but oozing with personality.  Remember: define your brand personality, and stay aligned with it.

3. If you have seen a font and want to know what it is, go to http://www.myfonts.com/WhatTheFont/ and load the electronic image for identification.

Fourth, verify that your selection serves your purposes effectively:
a. Is the typeface available in the sizes you need?
b. Is the typeface available in the styles you need (italic, bold, condensed etc.)?
c. Does the typeface offer all of the characters that you need (ligatures for example)?
d. Does the typeface support the alphabets and languages you need (letters, diacritics)?
e. Does the typeface read fluidly and comfortably if you are using it for body text?
f. Does the typeface align with your brand personality if used for title text?

Fifth, contact us.  It's optional of course, but we're happy to share our thoughts, and we might just save you from yourself.  Go to the Contact page on the website.

For another take on selecting typefaces, try http://julianhansen.com/.  Julian has a neat flowchart for sale that leads you through a decision tree to a typeface selection.  Still cheaper than hiring a designer!

diy tip: color

diy tip: color

Josef Albers, an artist and teacher who came out of the Bauhaus, published a book in 1963 "Interaction of Color", in which he showed how perception is shaped by both object and context. Color, for example is perceived differently, depending on the background.  

Homage to the Square, 1965

Homage to the Square, 1965

What does it mean to us in branding and graphic design?  We suggest you never pick a color in isolation: always pick them in pairs (foreground/background for example), or pick them conscious of the context in which they will be seen...even if that context is a white page.  Color changes depending on the context.


diy tip: naming your business

diy tip: naming your business


How do you name your business?  The two most important criteria for most businesses are:
1. Can you get secure a domain name for your website?
2. Can you successfully incorporate in your State?

Since you compete nationally or internationally for domain names, and only compete within your own state and business type for incorporation, we suggest you start with your domain name.  We go to Godaddy.com because it's convenient, and type in possible domain names until we run out of ideas, noting prices and availability as we go along.  Then we go to the state for incorporation.  When we find a match we like, we have our company name.

The image above shows the brainstorming for our own company.  We wanted to build a business that wasn't tied to the founders names in order to facilitate succession in the future, and pursued a number of themes related to design: shapes, colors, imagination, inspiration, architecture, interior design, graphic design, ideas, invention....200-250 options, many of them goofy non-starters, and 3 or 4 hours of work, quite a bit more to complete the incorporation and secure the domain.

Most simple and straightforward domain names have long ago been secured by others.  A few strategies to consider:

1. Juxtapose two independent ideas that relate to your business, for a unique mashup.
2. Include your name.
3. Latinize: Go to http://www.quizopolis.com/latin-name-generator.php and type in anything for a pseudo-latin translation.  We don't know latin: maybe this is real.
4. Go to Google Translate and have fun:  imagine RED in Indonesian is bayangkan merah.  Pretty sure the domain name is available.

As with every element of your brand, each one is an opportunity to distinguish yourself from the competition.  As one of the most basic elements of your brand, and a decision you'll hopefully be living with for a very long time, getting your name right is worth the effort.