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ROHDESIGN is the website of designer Mike Rohde, who writes on design, sketching, drawing, sketchnotes, technology, travel, cycling, books & coffee.
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Entries in Blogging (59)


SXSW Sketchnotes: Additional Observations

It's a bit over a week since posting my SXSW Sketchnotes and I've been fascinated watching the meme and images make the rounds. It started small, with mentions on Twitter and then blogs with links, images or both in postings (currently at 66).

Mike Rohde and Sketchnotes from SXSW 2008

On Thursday, I notice a huge increase in Flickr emails with favorites and comments on the sketchnotes, so I checked my RSS feed searches for 'sketchnotes' and found that both Boing Boing and Digital Web Magazine featured them.

The Digital Web Magazine article was an intentional collaboration between Matthew Pennell, Tiff Fehr and me, but the Boing Boing mention was organic, via a post by Laughing Squid earlier in the week.

My observations about this whole experience?

People like to share things that make them look good — If you do something unique and interesting, people love mentioning your work to their friends, especially if it makes them look good. Being the first one to find something cool can earn credibility with a network of friends.

Word of mouth is powerful — I couldn't have planned the path or the speed with which the sketchnotes would have taken any better their own path via word of mouth. This reminds me how powerful word of mouth is. I know in theory how quickly good or bad messages can spread — this experience reinforced it for me.

Share your work with your network to "seed" it — I had several friends who I first shared the sketchnotes with: Twitter friends who attended SXSW and the speakers at the events I covered with my note-taking. I also mentioned them to longer-term friends like Jim at Coudal, Armand at Moleskinerie, as well as newer friends like Matthew & Tiff at Digital Web Magazine, who contacted me prior to SXSW. The old adage that you should build your network before you need it is really true. Having the trust and friendship beforehand makes all the difference.

Creative Commons Licenses Encourages Image Posting — I firmly believe that hosting the sketchtoons on Flickr with a Creative Commons license allowing re-postng with attribution made it super easy for bloggers to include images on their sites. This further encouraged visitors to check out the set, my site and even dig into my archives or email me directly.

Things you do outside your main work can improve your reputation — I'm a professional designer and art director, specializing in logo, web and icon design, yet am gaining notice via sketchnotes. This is a good thing, since my sketchnotes show how I listen, process information, think, analyze information and capture it visually. While completely separate from my professional work, it is at the same time at the very heart of that work, showing how I solve problems for clients.

I'm now considering a few products created from the SXSW Sketchnotes, including an e-book with high res images and added notes, and an on-demand or limited edition printed version of the sketchnotes, for sale to those who would like a copy. If you have interest in either of these items, please leave a message in the comments.

Finally, thanks to everyone who has mentioned and linked to the images, or left comments here or on Flickr. Your kind words have been greatly appreciated! :-)

Stats on Flickr — Wow!
Sketchnote Stats

Photo: John December


5 Years Blogging

rohdesign-5years.gifAnd it's official, the Rohdesign weblog is 5 years old today.

When I started this experiment in 2003, I had no idea where blogging might go, or whether I could maintain this blog for 5 months, never mind 5 years.

While it started as an experiment, it has become an important, integral part of my personal and professional life.

This is a place where I can share my thoughts, however crazy. It's a venue for my sketches, design work, and design thinking. It's an outlet for reviews of products and services I like. And it has connected me with many new friends and clients.

Thank You!
Thank you those who have encouraged me in this journey — you are the ones who keep me going when I am tired or discouraged.

Thank you to those of you who subscribe to my RSS feed or pay a visit each time I post — I'm very honored that you take the time to read what I have to offer here.

Thank you to those who comment on the blog — I appreciate your insights, humor and occasional corrections which help keep me on track and humble.

Thank you Gail, for encouraging me in all I do. You're an awesome wife!

Here's to another 5 years! :-)


2008 Sketchtoon Coffee Calendar: Top Spot on Google

cp-sketchtoon-calendar.jpgHappened to search at Google on the term coffee calendar yesterday, and it turns out my little 2008 Sketchtoon Coffee Calendar owns the top spot of the natural search results.

Holy smokes!

Turns out that Ricardo Levins Morales' very cool 2008 Coffee Calendar is in second position on the first Google results page.

I'm not quite sure how this happened—I'm not complaining—but it's surprising.

Actually, it's not that surprising in one sense. in my research I've found very few coffee calendars available. There are a couple, but far fewer than I imagined ought to be out there, considering how many coffee fans there are in the world.

This is also a good reason for putting in regular effort, day in and day out, to build and maintain a quality blog. When it comes time to share or sell something (especially yourself) all that work can pay off.

Buy It Today: 2008 Sketchtoon Coffee Calendar: $19.99 + shipping.


Just Catchin' Up

Moleskine Planner: Capturing Logo IdeasAfter attending the SEED Conference last week Monday and the National Youth Worker's Conference in St. Louis this past Friday through Monday, I'm taking a blogging break for at least a week to get back on top of projects.

I have several posts on NYWC and other items I plan to get up here, but for now I need to focus on client work and personal catch-up.

I'll be back soon! :-)

Interesting Links
In the meantime, here are some links worth checking out:

43 Folders: Palimpsest: the guide to a (mostly) paperless life
The Moleskine Project: A collection of Moleskine sketches
zzilch: Moleskine iPod Touch Case
Michael Mace: Google, the OS company
Miquelrius USA: A great source for Miquelrius notebooks online


ProBlogger Logo Design

ProBlogger Logo DesignAt the end of May, Darren Rowse contacted me through MakaluMedia, to redesign the ProBlogger logo.

Darren has one of the net's most popular blogs, and is one of the founders of b5media. I was honored to have a chance at designing the new identity, so I agreed to come on board the design team with Darren's site designer, Ben Bleikamp.

Darren's story is interesting, not only because he turned blogging from a hobby into a full-time career and business, but because he freely shares what he's learned from blogging. I quite like Darren's attitude of helping others grow and succeed by sharing his knowledge.

In this post, I'll share details and sketches on the new ProBlogger identity.

Initial Specs and Feedback
Darren answered my standard list of questions, and from his initial feedback I gathered several themes to embrace and portray with the new ProBlogger identity. He wanted ProBlogger to be:

  • A welcoming community where bloggers can learn and grow

  • A source of information on making income from a blog

  • A site promoting professionalism in blogging

  • An extensive blogging reference

  • Keywords: income, professionalism, community, inspiration, credibility, encouraging

Darren wanted a clean, crisp, contemporary, professional logo, without superfical "Web 2.0" stylings. He wanted a logo to represent himself and his blog, in a design that wouldn't go out of style in 6 months.

Sketches v1
problogger-mini-v1.jpgWith all of this information in mind, I began sketching multiple concepts to get the project rolling (click the image to see the v1 sketches).

With all of my logo projects, I like to loosen up with pencil in my Miquelrius notebook, freeing my mind to explore ideas. Note the keywords on the upper right of the page, which help guide me in idea generation during this first sketch phase.

I focused on theProBlogger P, as it portrays the brand well, and would be a consistent element from the original design. I explored one other idea (8) which suggested community as a nucleus with network connections and multiple outer atoms.

In Darren's feedback, I learned that he liked the emphasis on the P. He preferred the squarer P characters, as these leaned away from the "surf" look and feel he saw in ideas 17, 18 and 19. He also liked the community concept he saw in 8, so it was on to v2 sketches to explore those ideas a bit more.

Sketches v2
problogger-mini-v2.jpgI this set, I explored the winning concepts and a few others, bringing in aspects of idea 8 and the community "atomic" ideas merged with the P character.

After review, Darren and his team of trusted advisers focused on two ideas from this v2 set: concepts 19 and 23. Next up was the black & white and color phase.

Black & White and Color Concepts
Because Darren was on a tight timeline, I changed my normal process, including both black & white and color logos on the same mockups. This way Darren could see the B&W ideas and some explorations of initial colors.

Concepts v1:
In the first set you'll see I came up with ideas based on the v2 sketches (2, 3, 4 and 5), along with a new idea (1) which came out I worked with the logos. Sometimes this happens, and I've learned to go with the flow and include these as options:

Concepts v1

Darren's feedback from round 1 aimed us at the P within a nucleus circle with orbiting atoms around this central icon to embed the concept of comminity into the mark. While the more graphical representations of this community were interesting (1, 2 and 3), the clearer P emerged as Darren's top choice.

Concepts v2:
Based on feedback from v1, I narrowed to the single P with orbiting atoms, exploring different ways the atoms could be positioned, the connection between atoms and the outer ring, a font option and variations on the provided color pallette:

Concept v2

Concepts v3:
Darren really liked the color combo in ideas 7 and 8 in this set, leaning toward 7 a bit more. He wanted to keep the "P" and "BLOGGER" in orange and do one final exploration on atom position and separation between the atom and the outer ring. So I did a final v3 to help Darren see the 3 final options:

Concept v3

In the final version, I felt the leading atom suggested forward movement, and the separation of the atoms from the circle provided focus to the 3 atoms. 7.1 was chosen as the final winner:

Problogger Winning Logo

Darren was pleased with the final logo, which was subsequently included in Ben's redesign of the site. It was great fun to see the logo announced on Darren's blog, followed by the release of the new site design.

As one might expect, with a major change on a popular site, there were a few who liked the old design better. However, after reading comments on the site related to the new logo and design, a majority of Darren's readers really loved the new site design and logo. Most importantly, Darren was pleased with the results.

Thanks Darren for choosing to work with me and MakaluMedia on the logo design. It was an honor and a pleasure working with Darren and Ben on this project.

Related Links
A New Look for ProBlogger - Coming Soon (Very Soon) (ProBlogger)
New Design Update (ProBlogger)
We’re Entering New Design Transition Phase (ProBlogger)
ProBlogger Redesign - Bedding Down for the Night (ProBlogger)
Redesign of - Designer Tells All (ProBlogger)
Redesign of (Ben Bleikamp)