The Year Of Making Brands Work


We believe that the only way to predict the future is to create it. And at our core, we are an agency dedicated to the creation of positive change through strategic brand development.

Five Ways to Deliver an Optimal Brand Experience During the Holidays


The holidays are, of course, the busiest shopping time of the year. That means they’re also the time when consumers have the most contact with brands. In October, SDL published a report that found that 90% of holiday shoppers expect consistent brand experiences. How can you optimize your branding and offerings to engage consumers, and, in turn, sell your products? Here are five key elements to making your brand experience consistent—and excellent—this holiday season.

Context Matters


You won’t reach the people in your market if you don’t understand them, and you won’t understand them unless you pay attention to context. Context is the compass that guides allsuccessful branding and marketing.It’s about delivering the right content, to the right people, at the right time.

LA Just Wants Their Coffee

You’ve heard of it and you have your opinions: Dumb Starbucks.

The close by Los Feliz parody shop, that is using the Starbucks name and logo but adding the word dumb in front of it, gained national buzz over the weekend. This was all before its doors were shut by the Los Angeles Department of Public Health on Monday.

Our Top 5 Resolutions for 2014


2014 Resolutions

There was no question that our team would table key resolutions during our new year kick-off meeting. What made this year particularly interesting is that we decided to take it a step further and go public! Some may call it a risk but hey, we like risks that have a team of winners supporting them on every level. To show our commitment, we wanted to share our top 5 resolutions with you. 

Read Our Top 5 Resolutions!

Creative Versatility Shines As STARMEN Wins Three Silver Awards at Two International Competitions


Our Story Featured In The Los Angeles Business Journal


Our Story Featured In The Los Angeles Business Journal

MARKETING: STARMEN ditches fixed-rate jobs for retainer relationships.

Story by Subrina Hudson, Staff Writer

Armen David was working at his father’s Sun Valley shoe manufacturing business when he hired his friend Anthony Wiktor to help design the company’s brochures and fliers. David quickly decided the two should branch out and start their own marketing firm, STARMEN Design Group Inc. in Hollywood. They sold their services to family and friends – even door to door – mostly designing business cards and direct mail. Then one day, only three months in, they got a call...

Winning Streak Continues With 3 Awards



Defending London's Olympic Logo


We've all heard what people have been saying about London's 2012 Summer Olympic logo...

It's no news that London's 2012 Summer Olympic logo has received quite a bit of backlash. No we're not talking about this one, or even this awful one, but THIS one. A recent New York Times article titled, "There's Little to Love" even goes into detail about how the official London logo all went wrong.

Check out the article to see what we think...

Named No. 1 Web-design Agency In L.A.


Continue below to read the full article

Adobe's CS6 Beautiful New Identity


It's about time the new visual identity of Adobe CS6, looked more artistic and individualistic. They've come a long way in their graphic presentation and software development since last year's release of CS5. I'm glad Adobe embraced the idea of "creative freedom" as their brand platform for their latest edition of Creative Suite. Props to Adobe for truly being committed to its users and the emotional power of the creative process.

Photoshop CS6 New Visual Identity SystemNew Adobe CS6 Branding

Armen David speaks as panelist at AIGA's Professional Series


The sold-out Professional Series talk, ‘The Importance of Studio Culture & Identity,’ was held at Continuum’s work-space in Venice Beach. Bringing together Armen David, Braven Greenelsh, Candice Brokeshire, and Michael Stinson, and moderated by Eduardo Braniff, CEO of Imagination the Americas.

Continue below to see photos from the event!

Milton Glaser on Failure: Embrace It!


"The consequence of specialization and success is that it hurts you. It hurts you because it basically doesn't aid in your development. The truth of the matter is that understanding development comes from failure." -Milton Glaser

via Swiss Miss

Enjoy this video of Milton Glaser, one of the founders of Graphic Design, on success and failure and the dynamic relationship between professionalism and personal development. Watch the video below, his words are truly an inspiration to us all...

Happy Success!!

The Power of Influence & Creativity


As design professionals, we spend considerable time each and every day thinking about influence.

Of course, we’re continuously developing new strategies for how we can help our clients generate influence. Yet, we also devote much thought into how consumers influence others in an increasingly connected world.

In the short film, Influencers, written and directed by Paul Rojanathara and Davis Johnson, we get a snapshot of New York’s most influential and creative individuals who are defining today's pop culture. Influencers seeks to identify and explain not only who the influencers are, but also what makes them so compelling. Youthful, confident, fearless early-adopters are those who are now shaping our buying decisions, the music we listen to, the food we eat, the clothes we wear, and even how we communicate with each other. These people can swiftly embrace something not mainstream (a drink, a brand, music) and make it wildly popular – all through the power of viral communications.

Unlike the celebrity-endorsed 1990’s, today’s influencers are not bought or paid by a brand to wear/drink/talk about their product.  Rather, influencers embrace a product that they believe in, and then the buzz begins. This profound change has dramatically shifted power back into the hands of consumers. Being able to express likes and dislikes to a global audience is transforming the very essence of marketing and brand strategy.

Who are the influencers in your industry?

Have you identified who is talking about your product, sharing details about their customer experience, or tweeting about your service? If not, you could be missing out on valuable opportunities to reach out to your market. Are you ready to learn more about leveraging the power of influencers? Creativity is contagious...

The End of An Era...


The inevitable as arrived... and with it, an end of an era too. As Apple's creative visionary, Steve Jobs steps down as "leader" a sense of loss is felt throughout the 'tech' world and more importantly the business world. The man who has pioneered so much innovation and ideation that fundamentally changed the way we live, has also been credited with rising a struggling computer company from near bankruptcy to become the world's most valuable company. Now it has come to end, and for that... we can't say anything more than Thank You.

Steve himself published the following letter:

I have always said if there ever came a day when I could no longer meet my duties and expectations as Apple's CEO, I would be the first to let you know. Unfortunately, that day has come.

I hereby resign as CEO of Apple. I would like to serve, if the Board sees fit, as Chairman of the Board, director and Apple employee.

As far as my successor goes, I strongly recommend that we execute our succession plan and name Tim Cook as CEO of Apple.

I believe Apple's brightest and most innovative days are ahead of it. And I look forward to watching and contributing to its success in a new role.

I have made some of the best friends of my life at Apple, and I thank you all for the many years of being able to work alongside you.


UPDATE: just published this awesome timeline of 'The Life of Steve Jobs - So Far' great read!

Logos Define Candidates, As Well As Businesses


2012 GOP Canidates

In celebration of Independence Day, here's a look at how the 2012 GOP candidates are treating their brand like a business.  

Could you imagine if George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, or Abraham Lincoln had a campaign logo? They ran for political office in the early age of marketing, when a good campaign slogan would literally make or break a candidate.  It would certainly be hard to create a logo that matched Lincoln’s catchy slogan “Don’t swap horses in the middle of a stream.” 

The end-goal for any politician or business, for that matter, is to build awareness and ultimately win – whether it’s a vote or a sale.  And to accomplish that goal, voters and customers alike must be able to quickly and effectively communicate their brand offering.  These days, a great logo may be the first, last, or only thing someone remembers.

A recent CNN article provided some great insight into the importance for political candidates to choose a memorable logo.  This reality also holds true for any business.  To be effective, it is critical that a logo resonates without offending.  It should make a statement without turning off potential clients. A thoughtful, expertly-designed logo can set a business apart from the rest of the playing field.  Accomplishing this strategically and creatively is the most difficult part.

Interestingly enough, it may have been Obama’s creative but risky 2008 campaign logo that helped him with the election.  His eschewing the use of his entire name was a bold statement.  Early on, many joked that the “O” logo was a nod to his friend and supporter Oprah.  Surely, the association with Oprah didn’t hurt him either.

You certainly don’t have to be a politician to hire a professional team to design a logo.  In fact, because this vital component of your brand identity may be your first or only interaction with a customer, it’s simply a smart decision to make sure it’s both memorable and impactful.  By working with experts to create a logo that represents your brand in the best possible way, you will make your brand “pop” and get it working for you. To learn more about how a logo can help take your business to the next level, contact STARMEN Design Group today!

TIME Reveals The Iconic 'X' Cover


Osama Bin Laden 'X' Factor TIME Magazine Cover

Ad Age confirms that TIME Magazine will continue tradition and run a special edition of its iconic 'X' cover, marking the demise of Osama bin Laden. (illustration by Tim O'Brien)

Time magazine has rushed together a special Osama bin Laden death issue that’s set to hit newsstands on Thursday. The symbolic red X has been used to denote deaths of past leaders like Adolf Hitler and Saddam Hussein on previous issues.

As news spreads, social and traditional media unite. 
A look at how New Media and Old Media are brainstorming inventive ways to package together breaking news information about bin Laden.

Twitter explodes, can it keep up?
How Twitter helped speed up the news process alerting the masses about Osama bin Laden’s assassination.

Here's a look back at TIME magazine's use of the "X" cover.

For more stories and pictures of Time covers past and present, read's Thinking Inside the (Red) Box category.


UPDATE: Starbucks New Identity Revealed


It's been over a week, and if you haven't had a chance to stop by your nearest neighborhood coffee shop, then you haven't noticed the new Starbucks logo in action. In our previous post, we focused on the iconic "Siren" logo itself and wondered how this would evolve into a refreshed identity. Needless to say, we are impressed! From the bold typography, vibrant use of green, and dramatic packaging this makes for a modern, fresh identity.

To promote the new identity and positioning, Starbucks introduced a great video seen here, that communicates how its brand relates to the consumer to encompass a total brand experience that "goes beyond coffee" and solidifies the statement, "You & Starbucks".

Share your thoughts with us?

Read more on the new Starbucks identity.

Starbucks Evolves Logo Into Lovemark


Starbucks New Logo Coffee Cup

The world's largest coffee company, and one of the world's most beloved brands, just stirred up a bold new roast of its identity.  Starbucks unveiled an updated version of their iconic logo, which had been unchanged since 1992. The simplified logo focuses on its mermaid symbol and removes the company name from around the border of the "Siren." That's right, Starbucks no longer feels the need to reinforce its name.

Starbucks Logo Evolution

The new wordless logo features nothing more than its real star, the Siren, transcending her from logo to Lovemark. A term coined by Kevin Roberts brand genius and CEO of advertising giant Saatchi & Saatchi who writes, “Lovemarks transcend brands, they deliver beyond your expectations of great performance and they inspire 'Loyalty Beyond Reason'.” Transcending the Starbucks brand seems to be the new focus for Chief Executive Howard Schultz who plans to evolve Starbucks into the future and to “think beyond coffee.” The world is changing, and Starbucks is changing with it.  It is not changing the ‘essence of the experience,' but rather, enhancing the connection with their customers.  In her simplest form, the Siren connects with each and every coffee drinker. 

Overall, the visual simplicity makes a meaningful impact and the new focus on brand extension makes perfect sense. However, for those of you who think dropping the name, "Starbucks" wasn't such a good idea you should read this. Only time will tell, but Starbucks believes its best days are ahead of them -- regardless, it's going to be exciting to see how the new identity system evolves into Starbucks future plans.

Take a peak into the ‘Future of Starbucks’
Learn more about the power of Lovemarks

Video: New MySpace is now My_____??


MySpace's new logo... features an actual space ______ Get it?

New MySpace Logo

Okay, neither do we. But enough logo bashing (see previous post), this redesign is less about the newly unveiled 'logo' and more about the brand. YES!!! The team at Pereira & O'dell got it right! We all know MySpace has virtually unbranded themselves off the face of social media, when at one point they were, social media. But, despite the odds and that new logo, MySpace... wait My_____ is trying to stage a comeback. The site on Tuesday announced a major revamp that aims to go beyond image tweaks, repositioning itself not as a social network that can compete with Facebook or Twitter, but as a "social entertainment destination for Gen Y."

Read more here:

The site nor the logo are actually live, but we found this promotional video MySpace just released.

Gap can change its logo, but not its brand!


gap new logo before and after comparison

Let it be known, I'm not one to jump on 'bandwagons', whether it's politics, celebrity gossip, sports, or even in business. But I'm all aboard the latest bandwagon traveling along Gap's crossroads to logo disaster. It's widely been referred to as the 'Gapgate' controversy,  a questionable attempt by the company at designing a new logo and an even more tasteless approach at trying to market it. There has been way too much recent attention around the new Gap logo that I actually feel comfortable speaking my mind about it because unlike Gap's story, there's a happy ending here. Yes, keep reading and you'll see I offer a solution to this visual problem.

To much of my shocking surprise, I first came across the new logo while reading my favorite design blog '' where one designer so aptly recreated the Laird + Partners version of the logo in all of 3 minutes and retitled it, "Crap".

Before I critique the logo, I want to point out that one of my first jobs was working at the Gap and working in such a corporate environment with such good control over its brand propelled me into marketing and design. While working as an Old Navy and Gap associate I particularly became a fan of how Gap was able to engage and sustain a 'loyal audience' by constantly staying fresh in all aspects of their brand (fashion, marketing, advertising, etc.) Unfortunately this hasn't been the case over the past few years, revenue at Gap stores (including Old Navy and Banana Republic) have been declining (-8% in 2009). Pinpointing the problem by blaming 'The Economy' would be foolish. The Gap has a bigger problem, and it's not their logo... it's their brand.

A Brand Panic Move

One of my motto's is, "Your logo is not your brand!" This is a message we at STARMEN communicate to our clients all the time. But it seems Gap didn't listen, they officially rolled out their new logo last week, that came off more as a panic move, than it did with any real design thinking. Some credit this sudden change as a response to their declining sales, but as Abe Sauer from Brandchannel explained, "the brand decide[d] to change the one valuable element it has going for it." Changing the logo makes this obvious because it's the most recognizable thing the customers sees, but doesn't feel. A typical mistake most high-profile brands make in an effort to make a valuable 'change'. Just ask Pepsi how they feel about the whole Tropicana mess. With very notable brands, a complete brand identity redesign or even just a change to the logo can be the hardest task for any design firm, if not done right. Laird + Partners has done some great work for Gap in years past, and if the result improved the former, this probably wouldn't have been an issue.

Louise Callagy, a Gap spokeswoman, explained the new logo was intended to be the latest "evolution" for the brand and added that this was in the works for the last two years. Callagy explains "[the new logo] is more contemporary and current and honors the heritage of the Gap brand, but takes the blue box forward." Ehh... I don't think so... I'm sorry maybe back in 1965 but not today, there's absolutely nothing new about using the typeface Helvetica, just ask Eric Spiekermann. Simply typing Helvetica font over the former iconic blue box with a default gradient to offset the contrast of the black and blue is not the way to "take the brand forward" nor "honor the heritage".

We have a solution...

new gap logo identity concept

We at STARMEN came up with a relatively realistic solution for Gap. In honor of this 'heritage' Gap so greatly expresses, we found it easy to reflect on the first Gap logo and store back in 1969 and found a new way of embracing Gap's original essence with a more contemporary approach, something with similar mainstream flexibility as seen in MTV's new logo redesign. Rather than just an 'add-on' approach, this logo becomes more 'integrated' with the brand campaign, allowing the Gap to align its brand initiatives with its loyal customers. Rather than simply placing the retro typeface proportionally in the center of the iconic square shape, we more dramatically enlarged it to bleed over the edges. The clean, bold and organic lowercase font gives Gap a fresh new energy that's friendly and inviting. Our approach gives the logo opportunity to fuse the distinctive Gap imagery and the square shape, showing the flexibility of the new branding. So, what do you think of our alternative? More importantly, what do you think of Gap's perspective? We want to hear your thoughts... and we'd love to hear from you Gap!

Also stayed tuned to our blog later in the week, to hear what I think about another Helvetica logo redesign nightmare another popular company is trying...

UPDATE: By no means, are we saying that the above solution, is 'the solution'... we all understand that there is a deeper problem with Gap, and it's not just their logo, but rather their brand. However being neurotic creatives we couldn't help but offer our version of what we think their identity could be. Thanks for all the feedback, we hope you this will be a case study for brands to come!

As most of you know by now, Gap pulled the logo just as quickly as it put it up (overnight). There probably won't be much long-term damage to the brand, but we all hope that Gap will know how to approach the whole brand identity redesign, more hollistically, focusing on the brand itself and not just the logo.

Touchscreens That Changed the World


history of touchscreens

Before there was the iPhone or the BlackBerry Storm there was Plato, Simon and Newton. Touchscreens are everywhere we look these days, but they’ve actually been around for a lot longer than you might think. Let’s take a look at some of the most important touchscreen devices that changed the world. Once upon a time nearly four decades ago...

One of the first ways touchscreens were deployed was for the PLATO project, originally built by the University of Illinois as a computer-based education system. In 1972, the $12,000 PLATO IV system was put into operation. The system had an orange plasma display and a 16 x 16 infrared touchscreen. For the first time ever, students were able to answer questions by touching a screen.

1983 HP-150
Released in 1983, the HP-150 was the world’s earliest commercial touchscreen computer. Its 9-inch Sony CRT was surrounded by infrared transmitters and receivers that detected the position of any non-transparent object on the screen. The small holes that housed these parts collected dust and had to be vacuumed periodically to maintain touchscreen functionality.

1992 Simon (IBM)
The IBM Simon was the world’s first smartphone. Though launched in 1993, the Simon was first shown as a product concept in 1992. It included a calendar, address book, world clock, calculator, note pad, e-mail, and games. The Simon used a touchscreen and optional stylus to dial phone numbers, send faxes and write memos. Text could be entered with either an on-screen “predictive” keyboard or QWERTY keyboard.

1993 Newton (Apple)
Manufactured by Sharp, the Apple Newton MessagePad was one of the first-ever Personal Digital Assistants (PDAs) — a term coined by Apple’s then-CEO John Sculley. Its built-in handwriting recognition was the Newton’s most unique and interesting ability. The handwriting-recognition technology was ultimately ported to Mac OS X, where it’s known as “Inkwell.” It hasn’t really taken off there, either. Two ex-Newton developers founded Pixo, the company that created the operating system for the original iPod.

1999 Edge
Introduced to the market in 1999, the Sequoia Voting Systems’ AVC Edge touchscreen voting machine is a freestanding unit that allow voters to select their choices electronically. It was first used in the 2000 presidential election. It can be placed on a tabletop or assembled as a stand with its integrated legs. The AVC Edge eliminates hanging chads, thereby reducing the number of unintentionally spoiled ballots. After the polls close, the system prints polling place totals. These are stored as a permanent record –- further assuring the security and integrity of the election.

2010 iPad (Apple)
Apple’s iPad promises to bridge the gap between laptops and smartphones. A machine designed to handle browsing, email, photos, video, music, games, and eBooks better than any laptop or smartphone on their own. And with an available keyboard dock and plenty of apps just a touch away, the iPad will also serve a market of non-technical and new computer users. The iPad may prove to do for touchscreen tablets what Apple did for smartphones with the release of the iPhone.

See what else made the list at GUIFX.


Apple design explained in "Objectified" film


WATCH: Jonathan Ive talks about Mac design

In this clip from Gary Hustwit's docufilm "Objectified" we want to share with you one of our favorite clips, which features Apple's creative genius Jonathan Ive discussing the industrial design approach to creating the MacBookPro and iMac products. This is a great look inside the world of Apple's design 'process' and how that translates into the ideas which make up the Apple philosophy. Learn from this short clip just what makes Apple such a beloved brand and a great product

Check out Gary Hustwit's other docufilm "Helvetica" which I'm sure all you graphic designers have seen. We're looking forward  to the 3rd installment of the design trilogy, "Urbanized".

Top 7 Brands With Social-Media Buzz


The above list courtesy of AdAge/ OneRiot Brand Buzz Chart

In this new weekly chart -- a collaboration between Advertising Age and real-time buzz tracker OneRiot -- they monitor discussions on Twitter, Facebook, MySpace and Digg, and present the good news and the bad news for big brands with current social-media buzz. Take a look at the top 7 for this week...

For more stats, data, research and analytics about marketing, advertising and consumer trends, please visit the Ad Age Stat blog 

New Penny Doesn't Make Cents?


Lincoln Penny Design

Not so fast...look before you throw that penny away!

Have you noticed? Check that shiny little bronze coin next you get it, look closely... notice something different? Rather generic? Yes well unfortunately the US Mint has decided to redesign the Lincoln one cent coin. Let's be honest: American money isn't pretty. Our bills and coins are jumbles of incomprehensible symbols--every spot of ink has meaning, down to the number of spikes around the treasury seal, but it'd be a stretch to say they all cohere into a worthy whole. Well-respected graphic designer, Michael Bierut calls our currency "a cake that has been decorated to within an inch of its life." What it lacks in aesthetics, though, U.S. currency makes up for in quirk. It feels old, authentic, a little mysterious, and therefore valuable. It's money, after all.

Abe falls victim to a series of bizarre redesigns.

Penny Series

In honor of Lincoln's 200th birthday, the penny fell victim to an image series of four cartoony tableaus of Lincoln's life: his famously non-descript log cabin; a hilariously buff, superhero Lincoln reading on a log; a disproportionately statuesque Lincoln standing in front of the Illinois Capitol Building (which everyone will mistake as the U.S. Capitol); and finally the U.S. Capitol Building itself, bizarrely under construction. As a set, the coins look nothing like each other--"United States of America" appears in different type sizes; "One Cent" in different sizes and arrangements--and individually, they make no sense as a timeline of Lincoln's life.

It gets worse. Last week, the mint unveiled 2010's penny--Lincoln on the front, as usual, and a simple shield on the back. Gone is the Lincoln Memorial, maybe the most emotionally and socially charged building in the country. Gone is the wonderful level of detail (remember when you first discovered the tiny Lincoln statue in between the columns?). Compare it to 27-year-old Matthew Dent's redesign of Britain's coins--the best use of a shield on currency I've seen. Dent's redesign is contemporary but still complex; the coins work alone and as a set. Ours is simplistic and fake-looking. The penny is valueless enough as it is, and a one-dimensional design like this only makes matters worse.

Facebook Marketing: 8 Success Criteria


The 8 Success Criteria For Facebook Page Marketing

Social media marketing has become a hot topic amongst brand marketers and businesses, now more than ever looking to establish themselves within a social network. As a means to advertise/promote their products and services at low cost, the biggest being, Facebook. But it's knowing how to use it and what to do with it, that counts. The proper use of Facebook goes beyond 'setting up an account' as the focus becomes more strategic in being 'interactive' with your audience by taking the right steps to increase engagement and promote word of mouth through advocacy and peer-to-peer interactions, or solicit business call to actions that result in transactions. Simply stated, if a brand makes their community happy by generating a vibrant place, then then have the option to start generating business impacts (revenue).

The Altimeter Group compiled data by analyzing companies posts, comments, 'likes' on Facebook and found a clear pattern. There was a consistent set of criteria they heard from the industries experts, and they found the following 8 criteria:

  1. Set Community Expectations
  2. Provide Cohesive Branding
  3. Be Up To Date
  4. Live Authenticity
  5. Participate in Dialog
  6. Enable Peer-To-Peer Interactions
  7. Foster Advocacy
  8. Solicit A Call To Action

Okay great, now you know the 'key points' to creating a social media presence on Facebook, but how is your business going to execute a plan that meets this criteria to capture an audience and build your business through the social media platform? Look no further, STARMEN Design Group can take your brand from Content To Commerce by using a unique approach that bridges "people stories" to "product stories" through social media and branded content. Get in touch with us and get current, we are social media experts, and are here to to help you achieve true consumer engagement.

London Unveils Mascots for 2012 Olympics



When the official logo of the 2012 London Olympics was released three years ago, the odd puzzle-piece design was the object of so much scorn that organizers were desperate to avoid similar criticism when they unveiled the mascots for the Games on Wednesday. With the introduction of Wenlock and Mandeville (above), London 2012 organizers realized their goal. The criticism of the mascots won't be similar to the complaints about the logo. No, they'll be much, much worse. London went for a complicated design that seems a bit uninspired and fails to identify itself to the global community with its host city, culture, history and people. See if makes sense to you...

Check out the short film which details the weird origins of Wenlock and Mandeville:

Wenlock is named after Much Wenlock, a village in Shropshire which held an event in the 19th century which inspired the modern Games. Mandeville is named after the hospital at which the Paralympic Games were founded. Though both sound like Tolkein characters, the names are quite good and are the only thing that makes the mascots distinctly British.

Hugh Hefner Saves The Hollywood Sign


Hollywood Sign Saved

It's an iconic landmark we at STARMEN see everyday outside our window, the Hollywood Sign is truly one of the most recognizeable symbols of the California dream. A symbol that coined the phrase, "The land of opportunity". Well today, thanks to Hugh Hefner, Playboy magazine founder and iconic Hollywood figure himself, the peak has been saved!

The sign is Hollywood’s Eiffel Tower, this sign represents the dreams and aspirations of people around the world. Mr. Hefner said on Monday."

The landmark Hollywood sign will stand, unobscured, on scrub-covered slopes overlooking production studios and palm trees here, thanks to a $900,000 donation by Hugh Hefner in the ninth inning of a yearlong effort by conservationists to protect the hilltop around the sign from developers. The gift from Mr. Hefner, the founder of Playboy magazine, closed the gap in donations to meet the $12.5 million price that the Trust for Public Land had agreed to pay for the 138-acre parcel on the hilltop, called Cahuenga Peak. Million-dollar donations came from the Tiffany & Company Foundation and Aileen Getty, and hundreds of thousands of dollars were raised online and at bake sales and lemonade stands. The deadline was the end of this month.

The Chicago Connection

Ironically enough the Hollywood sign you see today exists because Hugh Hefner raised the money in 1978 to re-build it. The land was originally bought in 1940 by industrialist Howard Hughes and after Hughes died, his estate sold the property in 2002 to a group of Chicago investors who intended to use the land to build luxury residences. Hugh Hefner is originally from Chicago, which is also home to the Playboy headquarters.

More info go to

CONFIRMED: Apple 4G iPhone Unveiled


UPDATE: Gizmodo Editor Jason Chen Arrested, Home Searched And Computers Seized. The lost iPhone investigation begins...

UPDATE: Yes, it has been confirmed by numerous sources in news and media including online that Apple lost the next iPhone, in a bar.

Is this real? Could it be, that one of Steve Jobs secret service agents was sleeping in Cupertino? How did this slip through the cracks? Easy. Disguise it with a Belkin 3GS case. Though it's unofficially unconfirmed, there's a strong chance this is the next iPhone. Gizmodo, a high-reputable online source and popular blog for all things technology, recently posted this discovery.

You have to see to believe!

Reviewing the New Look for Microsoft MSN


Microsoft debuts MSN's new logo and site design

During the late 90s internet boom MSN rose to the top, to become a popular and admired resource for finding information and news online. They seemed to have it all right, a brand identity that was familiar with its parent company, (Microsoft) an appealing television ad campaign and a whole lot of money to support their place in the online community. Fast forward 10 years lately, and the site, logo, marketing, consumer connection, virtually everything about the brand had evaporated. MSN quickly fell behind the emerging internet giants Google and Yahoo! and never seemed to catch up. It wasn't money or colors, the MSN brand simply lost its connection with its audience, which seemed to be outgrowing the company. The explosion of social media is where MSN failed to connect its audience with their new favorite networking tools. So with a new logo, added features, being too little too late for MSN remains to be seen. If it's similar to what AOL did last year, it might just be. AOL if you haven't noticed (recently gave themselves a much needed and highly criticized brand identity refresh.)

Will the new MSN re-energize today's online users back to its brand?

Microsoft lags behind Google Inc. and Yahoo Inc. in search share despite efforts to turn the money-losing online business around. The software maker is saying goodbye to's blue background and its blocks of text links. Instead, giving the site more white space, fewer categories and more organized navigation. Hoping to bring back to what it once was (way back in 1997), a leading online search engine and news source. Microsoft Corp. hopes to get more Web surfers using its Bing search engine. Microsoft says Bing searches from MSN jumped during tests of the new design.

One highlight we can point out is the new MSN has a top news section that features photos more prominently. The addition of the Bing 'branded' search box stands out more, and people can scan lists of hot discussion topics and local posts on Twitter. What we did not like was that this facelift seemed to be just a new facade for its homepage. We discovered some of the interior pages still look cluttered and resemble too closely to the old version, leading us to believe this was done fairly quickly. We also noticed the MSN logo takes a backseat on the 'sports' page where, "FOX SPORTS" seems to dominate the page. This seems to be the case with most of its pages beign external link, making it confusing for some users who may think they've left the site.

Final Thoughts...

MSN is definitely taking a step in the right direction, unfortunately we think it's too late in this rapidly evolving technology market. They just seem to be pressing the emergency button on their re-branding efforts rather than taking a strategic approach, especially coming off the heels of competitors AOL's new launch and Yahoo's new "My Yahoo" updates. Still MSN has a lot of work to do before they can successfully recapture their audience. They need to assess what the brand stands for and how they are different and how to they can effectively communicate it.

Overall we think the site has been greatly simplified but still needs work, and we wish they would have been more creative with the logo! The site doesn't seem finished or complete and lacks in areas where others are stronger. The logo looks as if it has taken taken a step back, with the butterfly closely resembling a more generic icon which doesn't have the right balance or proportions of colors and shape it predecessor so recognizeably had. Regarding the type treatment, said it best...

The new one suffers from Bing syndrome: It wants to be cool and modern but it suffers from complete lack of typographic decency. In this case, the whole is not so bad, but the parts are."

Tell us what you think? About the web site? The logo?

Web Pick of the Week:


This week we are so excited to share with you this excellent example of a successful web site re-design for the city of Philadelphia. Philly's very own Happy Cog Studios were commissioned by the Greater Philadelphia Tourism Marketing Corporation about refreshing the outdated site, located at (now available as an archive). The original site launched back in 1997, and over a decade it had become one of the organization’s most important marketing vehicles.

With the newly designed UI, the creatives at Happy Cog have really set the bar for how a city looking to establish a web prescense for itself with the online community, especially among users in this social media and technology influenced generation. What once was a large, confusing, outdated site, turned into a beautiful, accessible, functional and inviting user experience that conveys the enjoyment behind visiting the great city of Philadelphia. We won't go into lenghty breakdown of this site, since our buddy Walter over at already posted a great detailed critique on his site. But we will go ahead and single out a few good points, in what makes this an exlempary model of cutting-edge web design.

  • Great expression of design
  • Using identity elements that define the city of Philadelphia (history)
  • Simplification of navigation and eye direction (compared to
  • High-resolution scenic images, capturing the audience
  • Excellent use of white space, not crowding the page
  • Content organization, and page structure
  • Eloquent and effective typography
  • Fresh color choices
  • Improved use of technology such as Java, Ajax, truly compatible cross platform site (non-flash)
  • Adding Social Meida tools, that initiate social networking
  • Overall, the site successfully generates excitement and buzz towards the benefits of travelling to Philadelphia.

What do you think? We want to hear your comments...

Why PepsiCo's Rebrand Failed?


PepsiCo's first big company meeting since 2006, CEO Indra Nooyi admitted the company learned it's lessons from some of the recent controversies regarding the sudden design overhaul of it's key brands.  She stated, "2009 was not a good year for North American beverages. We didn't like the North American beverage results" Really? You didn't, oh we're glad because we thought it was just us. I mean who really liked the so called, "refresh everything" campaign? I found myself asking, why fix a problem that wasn't broken? Was this iconic brand really in need of such a drastic change, but I'll save the design critique for another time, but the fact that Ms. Nooyi has acknowledge that the company made a mistake and quite frankly realized it's too late to "sweat the details" thus moving forward, is an even bigger letdown than it is "refreshing."

What's the rush?

Ms. Nooyi said the first lesson learned from the beverage portfolio overhaul is that the organization has to buy into the program. Realizing that it couldn't overhaul only two brands or drag out the revamp for several years, the company made a lot of changes in a short period of time. A task that was too big for itself... let's look at the key failures.

Remember Tropicana

Arnell Group's dramatic Tropicana rebrand at the beginning of 2009 was immediately scrutinized by consumers, media and the advertising industry, resulting in a replacement of the old product packaging and positioning. The "squeeze" campaign all together was a failure, including Arnell's advertising campaign which was missing essential clarity. But how cute was that squeeze cap at the top.

What's G?

Most Gatorade loyals only drink the popular 3 or 4 flavors that Gatorade has been known for. For years they've remained the No. 1 brand in their category of sport beverages, but recently they embarked on a massive rebrand during the economic recession of 09. The rebrand included redesign of more than a thousand packages, national advertising campaign and an increase in product line. As a result, Gatorade saw a decline in shares and criticism among media and analysts who have decried the brand's decline. Just ask yourself, how many flavors can you name? They've become overcomplicated and over saturated, forgetting their "core values" and simplicity that made them a success.

Tiger Woods: Breaking Brand Values


In preparation for the April comeback of Tiger Woods to the Masters I want to take the time point out how a key brand mishap, caused a deep wound in his legacy, which could have been avoided. What Tiger really needed was not a caddy, or a publicist, but a brand manager.

This is not to jump on the media barrage of articles streaming the web related to his "incident" or "incidents" (excuse me), but merely I feel this is the perfect opportunity explain how the success and downfall of the Tiger Woods relates to branding 101. I can't help but make a point of how it a key fundamental of branding was neglected and how it using the Tiger Woods 'case study' as an example for all brands, products or services.

Breaking the "Core Values"

I couldn't help but hear a loud undertone in this recent exclusive interview on ESPN with Tiger Woods when Tiger said, "I gotten away from my core values" and let me tell you, we're not just talking about Buddhism here. More importantly he forgot his "core values" were what drove his successful "brand". Like it or not, Tiger Woods is brand, a 'personal brand' which focuses on the individual, in this case a 'performance brand'. The Tiger Woods 'performance brand' can be interpreted by his success as a dominant golfer (athlete), his role as charasmatic family man, and more so, a marketable global figure. Like all branding, the 'brand' must be authentic, trusted, and faithful. These are the 'core' traits of which all brands must personify, it's the core ideas or values that drive the organization.

Up until this past November, the Tiger Woods brand had outward consistency, power and most of all loyalty. But internally, he was about to collapse. As he said himself, he became removed from his "core values" as a person, husband, and father. We won't get into his embarrassing "transgressions" and the details of his pathetic saga but it's important to note that because Tiger had abandoned his core values and ideas is how he got himself into this mess in the first place. The same way many companies and other brands become victim of their own success and become unmanaged. As brand expert Wally Olins states in his Brand Handbook,

"There always comes a time, however, in a successful organization when the informal, intuitive, perhaps muddled, but shared vision or core idea has to uncovered or rediscovered; when it has to be recreated, formalized, clarified and made coherent".

The steps to recovery is what Tiger is doing right now, but is it too late? Has he permantly damaged his 'brand image'? Will he ever be able to win over the hearts and minds of his loyal fans and followers he once had? Theses are the challenges that make for a great case study and with a brand manager in place, he should be able to overcome his woes and ultimately regain brand success.

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Our New Site Launches Today!


As an award-winning creative agency specializing brand design, we are proud to announce the redesign of the STARMEN web site. But "redesign" doesn't really cover it. This more than a aesthetic adjustment or surface-level change. This is more of a "refresh" both internally and externally. The new reflects our new ideas, new thinking, and new outlook for our clients, and their brands. For those of you familiar with us, you'll find a lot of new and exciting information, about us, the services we offer and see new design work!

Our LA headquarters is buzzing with excitement! This site has been a labor of love, created with synchronized hard work, absolute enthusiasm, and meticulous attention to how effective design can be. The new STARMEN believes happy users means happy business. One goal of ours that hasn't changed is this: We are here to produce solid, valuable results for you! Now, we just look even better!

Visit our new virtual home and experience the new STARMEN!

Microsite. Macrohelp.


In response to the devastating January 12th earthquake in Haiti, the team at STARMEN Design Group rallied to spread the word to support the American Red Cross’s relief efforts. Creating this support-site is our way of communicating to the web community that urgency is needed to assist those affected by this disaster; especially the thousands of abandoned children who are now without homes. The best way to provide immediate aid is through financial donations. Join us and show your support by donating to the Haitians during these tragic times. Be a part of the solution and provide help for the relief effort through the American Red Cross today!

View the microsite & donate at

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