STARMEN Wins Summit International Awards’ Platinum for Marketing Effectiveness

 

We’re deeply honored to have won Summit International Awards’ Platinum for Marketing Effectiveness in the website category for our branding of Anoush Catering, Southern California’s premier Mediterranean caterer.


How Did Diet Coke’s Latest Campaign Personalize The Customer’s Experience?

 

Coca-Cola’s latest Diet Coke campaign “Extraordinary Collection” is vibrant, unforgettable, and cleverly packaged. AdWeek’s Tim Nudd calls Diet Coke’s latest campaign to print 2 million unique labels as an “individualized design on steroids.” AdWeek reports “Coca-Cola Israel created the campaign, with help from the Gefen Team, Q Digital and HP indigo. For the Diet Coke project, a special algorithm led to a unique design technique that allowed millions of designs to be completely auto-generated.”


STARMEN Awarded IMA Best In Class For “Live Your Luxury” Campaign

 

We feel extremely honored to have won the 2014 Interactive Media Award’s™ Best In Class Real Estate category for the website and video created for Linda May Properties. Entries were judged by an impressive lineup of IMC members and submissions were scored for their usability, feature functionality, content, aesthetics, and cross-browser compatibility. The Best In Class title is only awarded to contenders that receive a close to perfect score on every scale.


STARMEN takes home the Gold Hermes Creative Award

 

Client satisfaction is our gold standard, but earning notoriety in a competitive award category, feels one of a kind. We are honored to be a recipient of The Gold Award by Hermes Creative Awards as voted by the Association of Marketing and Communication Professionals.


Let’s Talk Strategy

 

Brands are beginning to wrap around people in every which way. Similar to being introduced to another person, everything can change based on first impression and appearance. So what makes this first impression so memorable and impactful, while creating an appealing nature that people can identify with? It comes down to the power combo of integrating business strategy into design.


Turn On The Telly: STARMEN Brings Home Two Trophies For Promotional Branding And Cause Marketing Video

 

The start of 2014 brought a wave of accomplishments at STARMEN. We’re happy to share that we’ve won two Telly Awards, in the Best Promotional Branding and Cause Marketing categories.


Awarded Best In Class at the Interactive Media Awards

 

Awarded Best In Class at the Interactive Media Awards

Creating award-winning work is always our goal here at STARMEN, but when two of our clients, Hampton Inn and Discover Your Path, each earned a distinguished accolade in the Interactive Media Awards we were particularly excited. Both organizations launched a revitalized website to highlight their refreshed brand identity, and we’re so glad to have been involved.


Infographic: 2014 Visual Trends

 

Infographic: 2014 visual trends

Another year came and went in a blur of Helvetica and hipsters — so before you blink and miss 2014, grab a coffee, sit back and check out these top visual design trends to expect in the coming year.


Our Newly Renovated Hollywood Offices Featured on OfficeSnaphots.com

 

Our Newly Renovated Hollywood Offices Featured on OfficeSnaphots

Check out our newly remodeled offices featured on OfficeSnapshots.com, a popular blog that reaches more than 300,000 readers each month from around the globe. Office Snapshots showcases architecture and design firms who have recently completed office projects.

Enjoy!

Photography by our friend Vince Robbins

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...


Re/VISION: A Night Of Celebrating New Ideas

 

Re/VISION: A Night Of Celebrating New Ideas

Since our office is located in Hollywood, we're aware that you don't always need an excuse to party. But sometimes you have a solid reason to celebrate, and here at STARMEN, we certainly do.

After scoring over 12 design awards this year, we wanted to pause and thank the people who made it all possible- our clients and creative team. Their support allows us to do what we love and take risks. To show our appreciation, we hosted a private event for a night of Re/VISION - a chance to celebrate the past and preview our future with the people who matter most.

Keep reading to see our remodeled office.


Increasing Our Altitude: 2 Wins On The Summit

 

Increasing Our Altitude: 2 Wins On The Summit

As our team here at STARMEN grows, so does our awards list; we recently received 2 trophies from the 19th Annual Summit Awards.

This year, the Summit Awards received entries from over 50 countries across 5 continents. The competition is geared toward smaller and mid-size agencies that produce great work but are normally overshadowed by large companies with significant budgets. The Summit Awards gives smaller agencies a chance to earn some deserved recognition among their industry peers.

Submissions were judged on concept and execution in design, broadcast, and interactive media by judging panels comprised of industry professionals from across the globe. Judges included entities like Wieden & Kennedy, Tribal DDB, Grey Advertising, TBWA/Chiat/Day, Y&R, The Art Institute, New York University, Leo Burnett, Ogilvy & Mather, Saatchi & Saatchi.

Keep reading to see the winners...


Marketing Isn't A Science?

 

Marketing Isn't A Science?

Or is it?

The way you learn it in marketing school, marketing is a science. How could it not be, with all that jargon that puts everything into neat compartments? Unique Selling Proposition. Positioning. Niches. The four Ps. The Marketing Mix. All those rules of advertising and copywriting. Close fast and early.

So if marketing is a science, how come some people do it better than others?

Scientific method says, in essence, that if two researchers do the same experiment in the same way, they should get the same result. When that happens a couple of times, then the first person who did it is said to be scientifically correct. Does that happen in marketing?

Of course not.

But we all have the same tools. Market research. Public relations. Publications, such as brochures and newsletters. Seminars and speeches. Advertising. Direct mail and telemarketing. Even networking.

We all know the same things to do. Publicity. Newsletters and brochures. Niche marketing. Client surveys. And so on.

Yet, all results are not equal. Some firms emerge as giants, and others, including those that started in business at the same time as the giants, either go out of business or are still two-professional firms.

Why? What are the variables that make a difference in the same thing?

Or then, too, maybe marketing isn't a science. Maybe it's an art.


Apple's New Interface Design is Not New but "Borrowed"

 

Apple's New Interface Design is Not New but Borrowed

Apple's WWDC event held yesterday revealed some new products like the gorgeously redesigned Mac Pro, the dramatically updated iOS 7 and new 'killer' services like iTunes Radio. Yet with all the recent competition noticeably affecting Apple's brand image and market share, was this enough of a spark to re-ignite the once powerful flame that allowed Apple to torch the tech industry for years? Probably not.

This is not a 'bash-on' Apple piece, nor is it a design critique on iOS7, there are plenty of good ones out there. This is simply making a point of what happens among brands when you're no longer the "Big Fish". See Apple was always known for being a "mindshare leader" in everything from their ideas, to products, to design and even marketing, but now it's become very clear that Apple is now a 'challenger brand', they've lost some market share and they're slowly losing "mindshare" - thought leadership in design and marketing. The image of their new iOS (above) represents how Apple is feeling threatened and how Joshua Topolsky editor-in-chief of The Verge summed it up perfectly by saying, "Apple is showing that it can adapt, borrow, and tweak ideas from the competition". Look there's nothing wrong with what Apple has done, in fact, they've been doing it for years. I'm just use to Apple really pushing the boundaries of innovation and design. They've certainly played the "safe card" on this one, only time will tell if it will payoff or hurt them more.

Keeping reading to see how Apple borrowed design cues from the competition, with just one screen.


STARMEN Scores 7 Trophies from International Marketing Competition Communicator Awards

 

STARMEN Scores 7 Trophies from International Marketing Competition Communicator Awards

It’s been a warm summer and things are hot over here at STARMEN. Right on the heels of the Horizon Awards, we cleaned up with some serious hardware in the 19th annual Communicator Awards! The competition receives entries from both small and large agencies and creative firms from all over the globe. Self touted as the “the largest and most competitive awards program honoring creative excellence among communications professionals,” the Communicator Awards received over 6,000 entries this year. Winners were chosen based on quality of the entry, regardless of company or agency size and project budget.

The competition is overseen and judged by the International Academy of Visual Arts, an exclusive organization comprised of 600+ executives from marketing, advertising and media firms. IAVA members include professionals from Conde Nast, Coach, Disney, MTV Networks, Sotheby's Institute of Art, Time, Inc, Victoria's Secret, Wired, and Yahoo. Another detail about the awards competition that caught our eye was the fact that the trophies are made by RS Owens, the company that produces the Oscar and Emmy awards.

We were also psyched to see our integrated design efforts score some recognition. We won silver trophies for corporate identity, in the logo and package design categories, as well as brochure design. Creatively designed touchpoints like packaging and brochures help make brands more memorable, and it’s great that both our interactive and traditional branding efforts earned a spot on our growing list of award-winning achievements.

Read more to see the winners!


STARMEN Earns Multiple Wins from Horizon Interactive Awards

 

STARMEN Earns Multiple Wins from Horizon Interactive Awards

After winding down an exciting 2012 with 12 trophies from the W3 Awards and Davey Awards, we are gearing up for summer on a bright note. We took home 4 wins from the 11th annual Horizon Interactive Awards! The international competition was created to recognize excellence in the interactive media field.  This year, there was some tough competition, as the Horizon Awards received thousands of submissions from nearly all 50 states and 25 countries. 

We’re particularly thrilled about this recognition, not just because the statuettes are shiny and handsome, but because this competition embraces a unique approach to judging. The panelists aren’t just design experts — they’re our peers, other digital media professionals, with varying skillsets and capabilities. In addition to an end-user panel, the judging crew included Creative Directors Chris Nation of Hitcents and Flavio Masson of 10012.com. That meant the designs couldn’t just look nice, they had to function well and with purpose. Here at STARMEN, we always consider functionality during the creation process. Aesthetics are meaningless unless they offer a creative and strategic solution.

Keep reading to see the winners...


It Takes More Than Creativity To Be A Creative Director

 

It Takes More Than Creativity To Be A Creative Director

"Design is so simple, that is why it is so complicated." - Paul Rand

As a designer and creative director, my job is to make things look good while communicating a specific message or idea. Trust me, it's not as easy as pairing a sleek font with a couple of pleasing colors and shapes. Even a design with the most visually appealing elements can fail because truly effective design amounts to more than the sum of its parts.

With today's software and Internet tutorials, anyone can learn the tools and tricks to call themselves a designer, but real design goes beyond manipulating text and images in Photoshop. Like a good clear-drying glue, what holds quality design together is often invisible in the final product — and things fall apart if it's missing. That "invisible" part is design theory; a discipline primarily acquired through a formal design education. That education helps a student far beyond their portfolio, which merely shows off typography and computer skills. A formal design education provides a theoretical foundation, proper research skills, and tested marketing strategies that can turn a tech-savvy photoshopper into a bonafide creative strategist.

Is a formal design education worth the expense?


Love At First Sight - But That's Just The Beginning

 

Love at first sight

Is there such a thing as love at first sight? No doubt, but it usually takes a lot of sweet talk to close the deal.

 

I'm talking about product marketing, of course. (I bet you thought this was a late Valentine's Day blog.) A lot of us do fall in love with products at an initial glance. Apple can make us crave an iWhatever before we know what it actually does. One glimpse of the Alfa Romeo 4C definitely got my Italian pulse racing. Of course, art and design-based products (fashion, furniture, even foods) can spark desire with just a picture.

 


The Making of the New American Airlines Logo (Video)

 

American Airlines Logo

January isn't even over and one of the largest re-brands of the year has just been announced. American Airlines unveiled a new logo along with a new ad campaign Thursday, as part of an effort to revitalize the brand. Will it be enough? Does it work? This will surely be talked about for months to come.

"Since placing our landmark aircraft order in July of 2011, we've been building anticipation toward a moment in time when the outside of our aircraft reflects the progress we've made to modernize our airline on the inside," said Tom Horton, American's chairman and CEO, said in a press release.

Read more to see the behind-the-scenes video


12 Famous Brand Logo ReDesigns of 2012

 

Some of the biggest brands in the country ditched their old logos for new ones this year.

Microsoft ditched its logo after 25 years, and Wendy's changed up its girl with the pigtails for the first time since 1983. But even though a company's logo is one of its most valuable, and certainly visible, marketing tools, we're willing to bet that you missed a few of the major changes.

Continue reading to see all 12 redesigned logos of 2012.


Creative Director Anthony Wiktor Featured In Adonit's New "Create" Campaign

 

Through their "Create" campaign, Adonit, a cutting edge consumer creative-technology start-up, is redefining the way we think of "creators." By assembling a group of leading artists, designers, engineers, writers, educators and entrepreneurs, Adonit is seeking to highlight how people across the creative spectrum are using technology to expand productivity and creation in their respective crafts.


Winning Streak Continues With 3 Awards

 

daveyawards


5 Design Tips That Will Make Your Visitors Remember Your Site

 

Can you remember the last website you’ve visited? Unless it’s Facebook or another website you visit often, chances are you don’t remember much about it. 

There are 644 million active websites on the Internet, but most of these websites are so poorly designed that people don’t want to revisit them. Don’t make one of those websites! You want to create a memorable online experience for your visitors and to have them keep coming back for more. 

Your website needs to be easy to navigate and to provide some value to your visitors. You can go the extra mile and implement a few design tricks to make your visitors remember your website more than any other website with similar content. 

Here are 5 useful web design tips that may help you improve the overall customer experience on your website.


Starmenusa.com Featured on WDL

 

Our site was recently featured on WDL.com (Web Design Ledger), one of the most popular blogs for web designers and internet creatives. Check out the article "21 Examples of Big Photography in Web Design" we're so happy starmenusa.com was considered "an excellent example" of web design, among many other beautiful examples.

Our approach to web design, which you'll see in our work, has always been extensive use of photography. It's a good way to get your viewers attention and can make your site memorable and visually interesting.

Special Thanks to the amazing Giselle Muller for the include!


STARMEN Wins 6 Web Design Awards!

 

What an honor! We're excited to share that we've taken home 2 Gold Awards and 4 Silver Awards from the 7th Annual W3 Award Competition!

Check out the winners inside!


Branding Lincoln - The Movie

 

Lincoln Movie Branding

As an Illinois native and history buff since the 3rd grade, naturally I've had a fascination with one of the greatest political figures in American history, the 16th President of the United States, Abraham Lincoln

When I found out Steven Spielberg was planning to make an epic film on the last days of his intense life, I knew it was going to be something big, iconic, something I wanted to be a part of, well... I got my chance. Entertainment Weekly released this first photo of Daniel Day-Lewis as 'Lincoln'. First, I was amazed at the resemblence of Day-Lewis' as the commander in chief and then excited because it was exactly the iconic image I knew would make for a great movie poster.

Click below... see the "one-sheet"! 


Think Color Can’t Make a Difference?

 

Yellow is a cheerful color. Ask anybody. It’s bright, warm, and refreshing, just like the sun. It’s an innocent color…

Or is it?


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


Logo (Re)Design: Behind The Scenes

 

A simple logo. A not so simple process.


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


29 Ways To Stay Creative

 

We can think of a lot more ways to keep the right side of our brain active, but these 29 ways seem to be just enough! What are some other ways you stay creative?

Thanks to Anna @Dalziel+Pow for sharing.


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!!



3 Strategies for Building a Stronger Brand in 2012

 

The New Year always sparks a renewed interest in making changes! For a business, this should include taking a close look at your brand – both from your perspective and from that of your market. Questions to consider: How do your customers perceive your brand? Is it aligned with how you see yourself? Do people hear and understand exactly what your brand is saying?  

Yes, there’s always room for improvement. And, starting with these three strategies, you can help strengthen your brand in 2012.

Build a Consistent Brand

Consistency is the name of the game in brand identity. Do you think Coke and Apple became what they are by not showing the same face to everyone, everywhere? The more consistent your brand is across all customer touch points, the more likely it can create a powerful impression and be easily recognized by your market.

One of the most important (yet often overlooked) aspects of branding is that it MUST remain consistent through all communication channels. From business cards and collateral pieces to your online marketing tools, there should always be a clear, consistent look and feel to everything you present.

Innovate Your Brand and Image

Keeping your brand up-to-date doesn’t mean changing it to stay current with every trend or fad. But, being attuned to what is happening in your industry and what appeals to your target demographic should play an important part in the evolution of your brand! 

With 2012 upon us, it might just be the right time to consider modernizing the visual image of your brand in terms of logo, tagline, typography, color palette, and design. Small changes, tweaks, and updates can re-energize an existing customer and catch the eye of a new one! This is one step in the right direction towards staying ahead of your competition and becoming a category leader.

Be Social, Diversify Your Online Presence

Online today means much more than having a website. If you are not on Facebook and Twitter or don’t have a content rich blog - in the eyes of some consumers, you might as well not exist. Your online presence “speaks” volumes to those who will buy from you. A successful social media engagement model is not about spitting out corporate messages, but instead includes developing a two-way dialog with your audience. Of course, you’ll want to make sure your “voice”, through status updates, tweets, and blog posts, is aligned with your brand. Aim to be human in the social space.

Getting the right help to strengthen your brand is also pivotal to your success. STARMEN Design Group (Los Angeles) is here to help with a diverse team of brand professionals who are experts at making your business look and sound its absolute best.


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...


Your Logo Is Not Your Brand

 

It’s time to clear up a common misconception, a logo and a brand are not interchangeable terms. In fact, they are not the same thing at all! 

My mentor and brand guru, Marty Neumeier 'dispelled the myth' in his book The Brand Gap, "A brand is not a logo, an identity or a product". A brand, is a gut feeling, a consumers emotions about a particular company or product. The logo is a visual representation of that a company or product. However, it’s isn’t the brand itself. In contrast, a brand has a much broader definition. Your brand comprises everything that defines your company – who you are, what you do, where you want to be, and what you believe in. It’s the emotions people feel when they think of your products or services (back to Neumeier). This is far more than a creative image. And, an expertly designed logo is worthless if your brand is terrible.

Think of one of the world’s most recognized logo icons – the Apple. Would the logo be as powerful for the company Apple if the products they produced weren’t so spectacular? If they didn’t continually push the technology envelope and bring cutting edge products to market, the Apple logo would have little recognition.  The fact that Apple is wildly popular with consumers, their products are easy to use and understand, and they have incredible marketing has created their powerful brand. The logo is just a visual representation of this message.

So, if you’ve been considering getting a new logo developed, you may actually want to start with a review of your brand and what is truly saying about your business. From there, you can start looking at the elements that support what you’re trying to project, including that pretty image on your website.

If you're hungry for more on this topic check out one of my favorite books, Your Brand Is Not Your Logo: It Is an Experience that Lives in Your Customer's Gut by Robert Brunner, Stewart Emery & Russ Hall


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. Time.com

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. AdAge.com

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

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 SPD.com's Thinking Inside the (Red) Box category.

BUY THE TIME SPECIAL ISSUE HERE.


Design Thinking vs. Designing

 

STARMEN Design Thinking

This article on Fast Company is a must read, especially for anyone in our industry! There is certainly a difference between design thinking and designing – let’s not blur the line.

As the article mentions, “design thinking is not fairy dust;” you do not get to skip steps to magically solve a challenge.

Design thinking is a strategic tool.

It is a way of applying rigor to a process to get to a better outcome. I suggest we stop using it as a title or even as a noun. It is not a thing; it is a way of behaving and structuring a multidiscipline approach to get to bigger ideas and better ways to solve challenges in order to deliver breakthrough experiences to people.

Here are things we at STARMEN Design Group do to make it successful:

· Establish the what, how and who:
      - What are you getting to/answering?
      - How are you going set the journey and leverage everyone’s talents?
      - Who is the facilitator to manage the conversation on three levels: generative ideas, strategic business cases, and tactical deployment?

· Encourage the team to see different things, don’t just see the same things differently.

· Frame the journey through the consumer or customer to create a new language.

· Maintain focus, but ensure there is not tunnel vision. Design thinking is about navigating the unknown with a candle – observing and moving forward on the best discovery journey. Not a flashlight that lights up the clearest, most direct path.

Enough said – keep this article close by. You’ll be sending it out again and again.


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.


Why Designers Should Watch 'America's Next Great Restaurant'

 

"The logo is the point of entry for the brand." -Milton Glaser

I've always been a fan of reality television and NBC's latest show America's Next Great Restaurant is extra special. Not because one of my favorite CEO's Steve Ells contributes his great ideas on how to start a business, but because the show places an emphasis on 'graphic design' and 'branding'. If you're a designer or small business owner last night's episode was the one to watch.
 
The dynamic between designers and business owners is something that has always been misunderstood and it became more apparent to me after watching this show. I completely understand those who have a vested interest in developing their own business, but when it comes time for collaboration with creatives, business owners need to learn delegation is the key to management and trust is the key to leadership. It's the 'magic' behind a successful relationship that ultimately brings their vision to life.

During last night's episode there were two highlights I noticed that verified what I tell my clients all the time, have trust in your designer (or agency) and know who you are and what you stand for (before doing any creative marketing). I will try to overlook the fact the contestants in this episode were only given a short time to come up with a logo for their restaurant idea and I will also note that the creation process should never happen with the client looking over the designer's shoulder as they meticulously click away their ideas.

I'm all for embracing participation, but there's a difference between collaboration and instruction. That is exactly what happened here: Episode 102. Design is an iterative process and creativity is best in a group that focuses on the potential of an idea, rather than its weakness. Remember the goal is to generate as many ideas as possible before arriving at the final solution, regardless of any pre-determined ideas or creations. Please, please, please, don't begin your process by opening up Adobe Illustrator.

An identity is actually brand strategy or positioning in disguise.

On the other hand, the real business challenge in this episode, like most ambitious small business owners, was not focusing on the 'look' but rather, establishing clear definition of its brand, i.e. "Who We Are and What We Stand For" which was obvious for most of the contestants, who had difficulty explaining to the judges "Why Their Brand Is Special".

What failed many of these contestants was they were unable to communicate what it is about their logos that inspires people to understand it and feel the same way. Listen to many of the judges' reactions and comments, of the importance of their logos and listen to the "what" and "why" of justifying how a logo reflects the brand and supports the business. Personally I found Steve Ells' (genius behind the Chipotle brand) comments to be the most accurate in terms of how a business owner should think like a consumer.

So remember, before you rush into designing a logo or identity, it's important to capture the essence of the brand's personality/culture such as, a company's vision, values and their audience. Your logo is not your brand, rather a cover to a great story.


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


Naked Juice: Good Sustainable Packaging

 

New Naked Juice Redesign Bottles

A Recycling Revolution - All Naked Juice Flavors Now Available In New reNEWabottle® Packaging

Naked Juice initially unveiled the reNEWabottle in 2009 for its 32-oz. bottles—the first nationally distributed beverage to do so. The reNEWabottle, also known as rPET (renewable polyethylene terephthalate),is made of 100% post-consumer recycled content. These PET bottles are plastic coded #1, which is easily recycled and clear—showing off the vibrant juice inside. This seems to be the new responsible trend in design which other brands have been incorporating into their packaging.

The transition to the reNEWabottle helps Naked Juice to reduce its overall carbon footprint and will save more than 12,000 cubic meters of space in landfills. Using recycled bottles instead of virgin PET will also reduce the bottle’s greenhouse gas emissions by 35 percent, the equivalent of saving more than 500,000 gallons of gas a year.

Every Bottle Counts

1 MILLION

Pounds per year, reducing virgin plastic consumption

8,192 BARRELS

Oil saved per year (equivalent of taking 497 cars off of the road)

When Naked Juice finishes transitioning its entire line, virgin plastic consumption will be reduced by 8.1 million pounds per year, saving 57,000 barrels of oil every year—the equivalent of taking 3,460 cars off of the road.

To learn more about the Naked Juice reNEWabottle visit www.nakedjuice.com


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: CNN.com

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


10 Blog Topics to Write... Fast and Easy!

 

A blog should be part of everyone's marketing plan today, here are some ideas to get your started on the right track.

ten blogs to write about

Want to get started right now!! Why not? Tumblr offers FREE blog themes, no hosting or domain needed. It's really simple.


Web Pick of the Month: Skittles.com

 

Skittle Website Adventure

The new Skittles.com is so fresh we just had to show you!

We know it's been a while since we shared a really sweet web site with you all, forgive us... we've been very busy, so it's a good thing. Those of you familiar with our blog know that we surf the web A LOT and discover some really cool web sites. We love highlighting the best of those sites with you. We also encourage you to send in some awesome sites you find while browsing too!

Enjoy an interactive experience driven by a never-ending stream of content, courtesy of Flickr, YouTube, Facebook, Twitter and more. Skittles.com rewards fans with the ability to scroll infinitely, like an adventurous journey through Skittles digital landscape.

So 'Experience the Rainbow'... Love it or Hate it? www.skittles.com


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 'FastCoDesign.com' 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...

1972 PLATO IV
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.

 


New Twitter Based on the Golden Ratio

 

new twitter design based on the golden ratio

Check out the above picture from Twitter's Creative Director Doug Bowman, found on Twitter’s Flickr page. According to the caption: “To anyone curious about #NewTwitter proportions, know that we didn’t leave those ratios to chance. This, of course, only applies to the narrowest version of the UI. If your browser window is wider, your details pane will expand to provide greater utility, throwing off these proportions. But the narrowest width shows where we started, ratio-wise."

Personally, I think it's a much needed improvement. The new design takes the previous singular microblog layout to a whole new user-friendly multi-column UI giving tweeties a webpage similar to other social networks. As Mashable's Jennifer Van Grove pointed out, "The new Twitter is essentially a full-featured desktop application minus the download." Does this mean goodbye for popular desktop clients such as TweetDeck and Seesmic? What do you think of the new Twitter design?

We also hope that the recent update has solved Twitter overload.


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".


New Website Explores Titanic Wreckage

 

explore titanic wrekage website

Expedition Titanic. The dive aims to help further preservation of the ship, which sits 2.5 miles below sea level, and to give the public an intimate view of its history. The site itself transports viewers 2.5 miles below sea level and includes a 3D virtual tour of the wreckage, all of which is embedded with historical information. The campaign also includes social media initiatives to drive viewers to the site, such as video interviews of the crew seeded on YouTube and Facebook. Come August 22nd, the audience can get real time updates on developments on Twitter, YouTube and Facebook.


Imagine if MadMen created today's ads?

 

Modern Software Ads - Mad MenSomtime in 1951, between the advent of the color television and the ending of World War 2, advertising took on a new role in mass media. Businesses teamed up with ad agencies to convince the masses on products and services that they wanted to sell. Content was key, and copywriters were kings. They weren't as creative, or extreme from what our eyes are used to nowadays, but it was groundbreaking content nonetheless.

Engadget had a few modern day companies, Youtube and Skype (credit to the artist), with a 1950s style and content. They are spot on, and actually pretty funny! Imagine what 1950s advertisements would look like for modern day companies.

Enjoy Your Weekend!


Designers: Looking for the right typeface?

 

typface infographic chart

A designers most difficult task and least fun, seems to be choosing the right typeface. Let alone a good one. A typeface must, make sense with your design, be true to brand standards and most of all... must be legible enough to communicate your messaging.

Worry no more, now with this helpful flowchart (infographic) designed by the clever Julian Hansen you will never go wrong. And if you do, your client will ask you to change it anyway. [Thanks to Ben in NYC and Gizmodo for this lead.]

Download the full chart here.


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.


Insider Tips: Get Your Designs Approved!

 

One of the most challenging parts of any brand design process is getting design approved via "client sign off". It can prove time consuming, demoralizing and if you are not careful can lead to a dissatisfied client. What is more you can end up with a design that you are ashamed to include in your portfolio.

How then can you ensure that the design you produce is the one that gets built? How can you get the client to sign off on your design? Below are 10 tips learnt from years of experience, we call them the "growing pain" years.

1. Write the creative brief

Many of the clients you work with will not have been involved in a web or design project before. Even if they have they may have worked in a very different way to what you would expect. Take the time at the beginning of the project to compose a 'creative brief' explain their role in the design of the site. The best approach is to emphasis that their job is to focus on the needs of their users and business. They should concentrate on the broad issues, while you worry about the details of layout, typography and color scheme.

By clarifying what you expect from the client, you help them to provide the right kind of input throughout the process. The creative brief is also a useful tool that you can use throughout your design process, kind of like a roadmap for the foundation from which you 'brand' your client. Get it approved and you'll have something to fall back on if any disagreements come back to haunt you later on.

2. Understand the business

Before you open up Photoshop or put pen to paper, take the time to make sure you properly understand not only the brief but the organization behind the site. By understanding their business objectives, organizational structure and marketing strategy your design decisions will be better informed.

You cannot rely upon the brief to provide all of the information you need. It is important to dig deeper and get as good an understanding of their business as possible, do some audits, external research, go out and study their competitors. This information will prove invaluable when justifying your design decisions.

3. Understand the users

We all like to think of ourselves as user centric designers, but exactly how much effort do you put into knowing your users before beginning the design process?

Take the time to really understand them the best you can. Try to meet with some real prospective users and get to know their needs. Failing that work with the client to produce user personas to help picture exactly what kind of people they are.

Understanding your users not only improves the quality of your work, but also helps move the discussion away from the personal preferences of the client, to the people who’s opinion really matters. Some client's themselves, do not properly "know" or "understand" their audience until you put it in front of them. Be bold, be creative!

4. Avoid multiple concepts, Avoid multiple concepts...

Many clients like the idea of having the option to choose between multiple design concepts. However, although on the surface this might appear to be a good idea it can ultimately be counterproductive for design sign off.

In a world of limited budgets it is unwise to waste money on producing designs that are ultimately going to be thrown away. The resources would be better spent refining a single design through multiple iterations.

What is more, multiple concepts often cause confusion rather than clarity. It is common for a client to request one element from one design and another from the second. As any designer knows this seldom works. This is one of the primary reasons that legendary graphic designer Paul Rand avoided showing more than one concept to his clients. in fact, his iconic UPS logo was chosen after only seeing ONE comp.

5. Use mood boards

Clients are often better at expressing what they don’t like than what they do. This is one of the reasons why they favour producing multiple design concepts. An alternative less costly approach is to create a series of mood boards. These boards contain a collection of colours, typography and imagery which represent different “moods” or directions, which the design could take.

Mood boards are quick and easy to produce allowing you to try out various design approaches with the client without investing the time needed to produce complete design concepts. This means that by the time you develop a concept the client and designer have already established an understanding about the direction of the design.

6. Say what you like, challenge convention

It is not uncommon for a client during let's say, a web project to ask for a design that looks similar to another site they like. The problem is that it can often be hard to establish exactly what it is about the site that attracts them. Also in many cases the sites they like are not something you are keen to emulate!

A better approach that was suggested by most web professionals is to show them sites that you think the design should emulate. Keep a collection of screen captures from well designed sites and pick out a few that are relevant to that particular client. Explain why you feel these designs might suit their project and ask for their feedback. If they don’t like your choices then expose them to more of your collection and see what they pick out.

7. Wireframe the homepage

Often clients find it hard to distinguish between design and content and so sometimes reject a design on the basis that the content is not right. This is particularly true when signing off the homepage.

You may therefore find it useful to establish the homepage content before producing the design. That way once they see the design they will not be distracted by the content. One of the best ways to do this is by producing a basic wireframe consisting of a series of content boxes. Once this has been approved you will find the sign off of design much easier.

8. Present your designs in person

Although it is true that a good design should speak for itself it still needs presenting to the client. The client needs to understand why you have made the design decisions you have, otherwise they will judge the design purely on personal preference.

Talk them through the design explaining how it meets the needs of their users and business objectives. Refer to the mood boards and preferred sites the client approved and explain how the design is a continuation of those. Never simply email the design through and hope the client interprets your work correctly! It's just impersonal.

9. Provide written supporting material

Unfortunately, no matter how well you justify the design to the client he is almost certain to want to show it to others. He may need his bosses approval or require internal buy in. At the very least he is going to want to get a second opinion from a friend or colleague.

The problem with this is that you are not going to be there to present to these people in the same way you did for the client. You cannot expect the client to present your ideas as well as you did. The reality is that you have lost control of how the design is perceived.

One way to minimize this problem is to provide written documentation supporting the design. This can be a summary of the presentation you gave to the client and allows him to distribute this along with the design. By putting a written explanation with the design you ensure that everybody who sees it gets the same message.

10. Control the feedback

My final piece of advice for managing design sign off is to control the way you receive feedback. A clients natural inclination will be to give you his personal opinion on the design. This is reinforced because you ask them what they think of the design. Instead ask them what their users will think of the design. Encourage them to think from the users perspective. Tell them to do some 'polling' with people unassociated with their inner circle to avoid bias at all costs.

Also encourage them to keep that overarching focus I talked about in my first tip. Their tendency will be to try to improve the design, however that should be your problem not theirs. The role of a client should be to defend the needs of their users and business not do the design. Encourage the client to make comments such as “I am not sure that my female users will like the masculine colours” rather than “can we make the whole design pink.” It is down to them to identify the problems and for you as the designer to find the most appropriate solution. Lastly, please when you're requesting feedback make sure you ask for ONE consolidated and FINAL document of revisions, this way you won't have to sort through 23 emails, as the client changes their mind every other hour.

So there you have it. Our 10 tips to improve design sign off. Will this ensure design approval every time? Unfortunately not. However it should certainly help smooth the way. Now you also know a little bit on how we work, for those potential clients out there... let's talk!


London Unveils Mascots for 2012 Olympics

 

london2012-creepy-mascots

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.


Welcome Web Fonts!

 

typekit-webfonts

Google and Typekit both spilled some much-anticipated beans last week. First off, Google announced they are releasing high quality open source fonts in the Google Font Directory. Users will be able to download these open source fonts from http://code.google.com/p/googlefontdirectory/.  They also went so far as to release Google Font API, which is an HTML based tool that enables you to implement any of these fonts into your site with a level of ease that we’ve been accustomed to from Google.

Wait. It gets better. Typekit and Google announced the release of a Web Font Loader to smooth out any issues when putting their web fonts to use.

The WebFont Loader puts the developer in control of how web fonts are handled by various browsers. The API fires JavaScript events at certain points, for example when the web font completes downloading. With these events, developers can control how web fonts behave on a site so that they download consistently across all browsers. In addition, developers can set the fallback font's size to more closely match the web font, so content doesn't reflow after loading. Furthermore, the WebFont Loader is designed to make it easy to switch between different providers of web fonts, including Google, Typekit, and others. The code is modular, and we expect to add modules for other major web font providers in coming weeks.

To see an example of Google’s web fonts in the flesh visit Smashing Magazine.


Web Pick of the Week: HBO.com

 

HBO New Web Site

Newly revamped flash-based HBO.com features enhanced interactive and video features, personal dashboard

Our good friends over at HBO have relaunched their website HBO.com, adding interactive features and enhanced video support. The HBO Go web site itself is visually stunning, with lots of full-screen visuals for each of the featured TV shows, movies, and other bits of programming that scroll past once a user is logged in. Browsing through the different featured sections — Movies, Series, Comedy, Sports, Documentaries, and Late Night — is quick and painless, with each offering up an easy-to-navigate interface for choosing between titles. Users can customize the viewing experience by choosing between cover, grid, and list modes of viewing available content.

We wanted to create a rich, interactive online destination worthy of the HBO brand," said Alison Moore, vice president, Brand Strategy and Digital Platforms.

Here's a quick list of the site's key expanded features:

Streaming Video – high quality videos of HBO shows in full screen resolution, regardless of monitor size, that provide users with more of a TV-watching experience than a PC-viewing experience.

Enhanced schedule – easy to use and accessible from every page on the site.

Community –upload your photo, create a personal identity and establish a unique voice by posting comments and stories throughout the site.

Shareability – share content with friends in and outside of the HBO community, with a robust set of share tools that includes email, video embed and post functionality.

Personal dashboard – create a dashboard of favorites, plus bookmark discussions, clips, and even get recommendations for new content based on favored programs.

Overall, we think this is a prime example of how entertainment companies can expand their online presence in today's digital age. HBO.com uses the best in web design techniques in conjuction with the latest technology to accomplish an optimal viewing and user experience for its users. I feel the HBO approach can set a standard of design for companies who stream video content online, i.e. hulu, youtube, vimeo, etc.

Explore: HBO.com


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! www.gizmodo.com


Adobe Creative Suite 5 Launches Today

 

UPDATE: Preview the latest features in Adobe Creative Suite 5 Design Premium. What is Design Premium?

We've been invited to attend the online global launch event taking place right now. Check back with us a little later has we'll have all the latest, up-to-date inside features and news regarding your favorite Adobe programs... for now here's a sneak peek.


Hertz Launches New Brand Identity

 

As part of a major re-branding effort, Hertz Corp. wants to woo cash-strapped consumers by urging them to "journey on" in a new campaign. For the first time in two decades, the company is updating its logo, uniforms, ads and 2,100 rental locations, as well as adding snazzy sports cars to its fleet. Omnicom Group's DDB is creating the campaign, which includes TV spots, print ads and online elements. Hertz also worked with Landor Associates to modernize the yellow and black Hertz logo.

Our goal in the logo redesign was to create a more contemporary corporate image that reflects our strong brand recognition, and is in touch with the mindset of current and future customers who appreciate superior service, personalized choices and value," commented Mike Senackerib, Hertz Chief Marketing Officer.

The new identity remains recognizeable by the strong use of its iconic yellow corporate color, but loses its familiar 'drop shadow' an element which made it look very dated. The new logo itself has been successfully updated to today's contemporary, friendly, and less-corporate consumer, but its going to take a lot more than aesthetic changes to re-energize the consumer and their views toward the Hertz brand.


Ready To Get Your iPad? Not So Fast...

 

The recent debut of Apple's latest creation, the iPad had people running to their nearest Apple store (myself included) to check it out. In fact early sales numbers show that it did quite well, between 600,000 and 700,000 iPads (pre-orders included) according to Piper Jaffray analyst Gene Munster. Unlike the iPhone, the iPad is an entirely new category of device leaving many of its potential owners and consumers with questions. Questions not so much regarding the technology of the device itself rather, how will I use this device? More importantly, do I even need this?

These consumer questions are the least of Apple's worries. HP's much anticipated "Slate" is set to be released in the not so distant future, with capabilities that could potentially make it an "iPad killer" or simply 'a better product'. Take a look at HP's latest 30-second teaser that makes a point of showing off all the features on the Slate that are missing on the iPad, such as a built-in camera, a USB port (a real one, not an adapter), and an SD card slot. Now we at STARMEN are Apple loyalists, our office (and industry) has been made possible by all of Apple's sophisticated tools that make our working environment lots of fun and much easier such as our iMac's, MacBook Pro's, iPod's and iPhone's. After reviewing the spec sheet and looking further into the features of the iPad vs. Slate, I have to give a strong second thought to purchasing an iPad. I think HP might have the upper hand in this battle..

Contrary to the iPhone the iPad won't be as easy this time around because at that time, the room for Apple's iPhone competition was slim. Largely due to the fact that the Apple's first attempt at a mobile device was such a rapidly surprising success which had support elements such as its App's Store, usuability, and attractiveness that rivaled virtually everyone. Here the race as tighten considerably, the Slate has more functions (including Flash support), is just as sexy and can be much more of an asset to its owner.

The iPad, for now, is a hit (an impluse buy), a novelty if anything. But when HP's Slate debuts, its sure to shake things up a bit. Stay tuned...


ESPN Radio's New Web UI

 

For those of you who listen to radio or stream online broadcasts, have you ever wondered what makes your experience so enjoyable? Well take ESPN's online web interface as a premiere example. I happen to be a fan and daily listener of ESPN Radio live morning radio shows, before our afternoon meetings. Recently I discovered that ESPN had upgraded the design of their interactive display allowing ESPN to enhance their users listening and now viewing experience. An impressive and improved upgrade made possible by the team at StreamTheWorld, an integrated streaming solution for Radio and TV broadcasters.

Launch it live on your browser, and experience the design for yourself!


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 MSN.com'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 MSN.com 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, underconsideration.com 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?


Helvetireader 2: A Google Reader Theme

 

"Helvetica Always Works" is a theme in a book I've been reading called, "Never Use White Type on a Black Background" (great read) and Gary Hustwit's recent film Helvetica offered a look into the typography, graphic design and global visual culture surrounding the famous typeface.

UK's Hicksdesign latest creation called Helvetireader, is a stylesheet userscript theme for all you Google Reader users out there that adds a clean and minimal look to your visual interface. I highly reccomend checking this out especially if you're bored with Google's default UI that is crowded with colors, lines and buttons, much like I am with gmail. So why Helvetica you ask, well probably because it is just that, simple, clean and effective.

Helvetica is all around us. You've probably seen it several times today." - Gary Hustwit (1964)

If you don't have Google Reader, get it here! You can visit all your favorite web sites, blogs and social networks all in one place.

 


Upgrade Your Web Browser: Get Firefox 3.6

 

We've always been a fan of this friendly and easy open source web browser since it's release in 2004. The latest version of Firefox introduces cutting-edge features, support for a wide variety of Web standards, and access to more than 6,000 free add-ons that allow users to customize their browser to their liking.

The World's Best Browser Just Got Better!

Firefox 3.6 is more than 20 percent faster than Firefox 3.5 and includes extensive under the hood work to improve performance for everyday Web tasks such as email, uploading photos, social networking, and more. It also delivers new features like customizable browser themes called Personas, a ground-breaking Plugin updater, improved JavaScript performance, and enhancements to familiar favorites like the Awesome Bar for a better, more personal Web experience.

Upgrade to the latest Firefox here.


Web Pick of the Week: VisitPhilly.com

 

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 gophila.com (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.

VisitPhilly.com

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 webdesignerdepot.com 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 gophila.com)
  • 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...


Alan Siegel: Let's Simplify Legal Jargon!

 

Having a hard time paying off those credit card bills? Well the design of the credit card contracts, make it harder for you to get rid of your debt. If Alan Siegel had his way, more of us would think twice to use plastic to pay for that expensive dinner. It's all in the visual communication.

Alan Siegel, is a brand expert and one of the leading authorities on business communication. He recently gave a great talk at the TED conference in Long Beach. He's man who preaches simplification and specifically regarding legal documents for government and business.

 


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.


Web Pick of the Week: Hawaiian Airlines

 

Everyweek, STARMEN will share with our readers, our favorite website picks from around the web. We look for first and foremost, overall design visibility, technology, navigation, and how they all apply to effective web design. These picks are meant to inform, excite and inspire you to see how we as internet users are affected by web design everyday. Feel free to submit your favorite sites to us, we'll consider adding it!

Hawaiianair.com

Forgive us, we've been on the topic of Travel & Tourism lately, because the STARMEN team has been recently working on a huge identity and design project for a very popular airline carrier (Shhh... details coming soon!). Through our findings and research, one of our delights with approach to online identity and web design is www.hawaiianair.com We don't know too much about the brand itself, but what we found from visiting their site is a refreshing and appealing treatment of simplistic navigation (making the user experience very easy and organized). Using a stimulating background image of Hawaii's rich landscape provides powerful design layout that differs from most travel sites. See our post on the new Southwest.com. The result is a colorful, memorable and simple site which features easy navigation for its users, supporting the ideas of the brand itself. Much like one of our other favorites: Virgin America.

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


Southwest.com Gets Another Facelift

 

One of our favorite airline companies and admired travel brands is Southwest Airlines. We also have been fans of their web site and apparently you are too (in 2009, Nielsen/Netratings reported that southwest.com was the largest airline site in terms of unique visitors). Not only do they run an efficient, affordable business, but their online destination is friendly, and very easy to use.

We recently booked a business trip to Las Vegas, and while visiting southwest.com, we immediately recognized they had done another upgrade to their user interface. We weren't sure how we felt about it at first, but then after comparing it to the old site we realized that Southwest just made a good thing, even better! Allow us to point out some of the new features, in case your're wondering what's so great about it.

  1. Most popular booking features are right there on the home page.
  2. Use of more elegant black, shying from the corporate "orange" (We liked the orange?)
  3. "What's New" page, for latest Southwest news and info.
  4. Revamped the menus at the top of the home page (We prefer this easy-to-find).

Unlike most redesigns, Southwest was smart about their updates. They didn't do a 360! Causing unfamiliarity with a dramatic design overhaul or cause chaos to their loyal followers by adding on too many features, instead they did a moderate "improvement." Keeping the same popular features, just making them better by improving the user experience.

Take a look for yourselves, we'd love to hear what you think?


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 starmenusa.com 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!


View Our New Site On Your iPhone

 

While the internet travels and the industry evolves, so do we. STARMEN designers and tech enthusiasts have been very pumped to launch our mobile iPhone site!  We’ve always been believers in simplicity, and this optimized format reflects just that.  Even on your iPhone, we’re here to make your brand work!

Explore our new platform!  Read about our agency, map our location, or just shoot us an e-mail. We are at your virtual disposal!


Couture Glamour Returns to Hollywood

 

Before Angels became synonymous with lingerie, Hollywood’s elite wore Juel Park Lingerie. Started in the Roaring Twenties, Juel Park designed lingerie for women like Elizabeth Taylor, Marilyn Monroe, Ava Gardner and Katherine Hepburn.  Over the years, the Juel Park has passed down through the ranks of talented women; and now, the youngest partner is ready to make a comeback.

STARMEN found their history very engaging and applicable in our day and age – all can be revived!  We’re excited to help Juel Park sponsor their new launch and showcase the growth of their company! To honor the many proud survivors and to remember the family and friends lost to breast cancer, proceeds from this event will benefit the Susan G. Komen for the Cure Foundation.

For event details, please visit: http://www.juelpark.com/launchevent/