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Entries in Design (96)


Winterblast 2009 T-Shirt Design

I've just received a box of freshly printed t-shirts I've designed for Winterblast, our church youth group's yearly winter retreat. As with the 2008 t-shirt design, I'd like to share a little more about the design process along with imagery of the final design.

Maintaining the Winterblast Identity

Since 2007, I've been working with a few constant specifications when designing the Winterblast t-shirt — a solid color, long sleeve shirt, white ink Winterblast 2007 & 2008 T-Shirt Designson the front only and a stylized wintertime animal in the artwork.

For the 2007 design I created a snow monster with two broom ball sticks on a navy shirt to start this series. In 2008, I chose a polar bear with a winter hat and sunglasses on a forest green shirt.

For 2009 I selected a penguin on a snowboard as the cold-weather animal to stylize for the shirt design.

Sketching the Snowboarding Penguin

With that general direction in mind, and the word FOLLOW as the 2009 theme, I began sketching ideas of penguins on snowboards, flipping over the typography:


Tom the youth pastor wanted simplify the FOLLOW type so the double LLs wouldn't tuck together, and we both agreed that having the FOLLOW type tilting downhill (rather than uphill) with the penguin grabbing air over the type worked best.

Color Mockup

Next, I prepared a color mockup for Tom in Adobe Illustrator, to show how the design would appear on an indigo blue long-sleeved t-shirt:
Winterblast 2009 T-Shirt Design
The font used for FOLLOW was based on Oxide Solid Light, with the strokes of the letters bolded manually, a customized W to match the style I wanted to see, and a custom explanation point added to round out the typographic details.

Tom liked this look and shirt color, so I sent shirt sizes and final artwork to MJM Screen Print & Embroidery Studio in Menomonee Falls, Wisconsin for final printing.

Finished Design

The final, finished design turned out great, and I especially love the indigo blue shirt color, which fits in well compared to the shirts from 2007 and 2008:

Winterblast '09 T-Shirt: Full Graphic 3

Winterblast '09 T-Shirt: Full Graphic

Winterblast '09 T-Shirt: Penguin 3

Once again, the shirts turned out well, thanks to the great work by MJM on printing. I'm looking forward to handing these out to our students at Winterblast this weekend.


8 Questions on Art Direction, Design & Sketchnotes

Mike Rohde Portrait: Cream BricksSeveral months ago, my friend Larry Wright asked if I'd be up for a detailed interview about design, art direction and sketchnotes. I loved the idea and agreed, responding to Larry's questions via email.

We met at the first SEED conference in 2007 and we've kept in contact since. As a developer, Larry is fascinated by design and after sitting next to me as I produced the SEED 1 sketchnotes, was curious about the sketchote process.

Here are some excerpts from the interview, first, my thoughts on art direction:

"In my view, an 'Art Director' is a designer with a 50,000 foot meta view of design projects they work on. They are involved all the way from listening to the client and stakeholders on a project, through the conception of an idea to the design, development and production the idea."

On my design process:

"Once I understand the challenge, I read my notes, and synthesize the goals for sketching. I use pencil sketches to help work out ideas that can solve the challenges I’m facing. These sketches are presented to clients with what I call “rationale notes” explaining the whys of my design concepts."

And on my sketchnotes:

"I find taking notes and sketching really reinforce what I’m capturing in my head as a speaker talks. Sketchnotes are not meant to be word-for-word stenographer notes, but interpretive. I capture what I feel is important, which makes sketchnotes personal."

The full interview: Mike Rohde - Designer, Blogger, Sketchnote Artist is available at Larry's site. Do check it out and consider following Larry Wright on Twitter!

Thanks Larry!


Bullfrog Touch Logo & iPhone UI Design

outer-level-logo100.pngIn May 2008, Jon Trainer of Outer Level software came to me with a then confidential project — designing an icon and a UI screen for a top secret iPhone native application called Bullfrog Touch.

I've worked with Jon for years — designing the Outer Level logo, and creating an icon for LicenseKeeper, so I was happy to help translate his popular Mac OS X app Bullfrog to the iPhone.

Bullfrog Touch Logo Design

The first challenge was creating a new logo for the Bullfrog Touch application. I needed to incorporate the existing Mac OS X Bullfrog cartoon icon, created by Jordan Langille and adapt it to the iPhone. With the bullfrog icon on the left I chose Arial Rounded Bold for the Bullfrog font, applying a bright green glow in Fireworks.

Bullfrog Touch Logo

In the open space to the top-right of the Bullfrog text, TOUCH fit perfectly. I stayed with Arial Rounded Bold in all caps, adding jumbled alignments to visually suggest a bullfrog's jumping action and for a bit of contrast.

Bullfrog Touch Score Screen UI Design

Next challenge Jon needed help with visually was the scores screen. Jon had a rough idea of what he wanted, provided in a mockup screenshot I could use for reference:


Using Jon's sample as a rough starting point, I began researching screens on my iPod touch and online, to see how Apple and other developers had dealt with UI elements, fonts, colors, sizing and so on. After the research phase, I built a mockup in Fireworks, right on top of Jon's original sample screenshot:

Bullfrog Touch Scores UI Design

My goal was to make the scores screen clear, easy to read and use, while maintaining look and feel of the new logo into the UI design.

Jon was happy with the results, using the mockup and exported files as a reference for the final application UI. The colors and button styles and some of the elements were changed, resized and tweaked, but are still pretty close to my mockup.

Here's my original mockup next to the the final Bullfrog Touch scores screen:


Conclusion? That was fun, I want to do it again!

It was an interesting and enjoyable challenge working with Jon on this iPhone UI design project. I look forward to helping others on future iPhone app projects to keep exploring this fascinating new UI design space.

Bullfrog Touch was chosen as one of the best iPhone/iPod touch games to give as a gift, in the TidBITS Gift Guide 2008

Jon Trainer has a post about the design process on his company blog.

Thanks Jon!


2009 Sketchtoon Coffee Calendar is Available!

cp-sketchtoon-calendar-2009.jpgThe 2009 Sketchtoon Coffee Calendar is now up for sale! You can buy it for $19.99 plus shipping at CafePress, with US and international shipping available.

Back in 2006 I started drawing sketchtoon style coffee illustrations in my Moleskine sketchbook in ink, scanning each illustration into the Mac for colorization in Photoshop.

In 2007, over 100 of the 2008 Sketchtoon Coffee Calendars were sold, so it seems there's a demand out there for coffee calendars.

Each month's illustration features a different coffee drink, with several unique drinks from various areas of the world, like the Flat White from down under and the Greek Frappe. Check out the cover and 12 illustrations at Flickr. I'm very pleased with how the calendar turned out.

Sketchtoon Photos
I've posted several photos of the original ink sketchtoons to Flickr:

Espresso Sketchtoon (Close-up)Latte & Espresso SketchtoonsCappuccino SketchtoonMacchiato Sketchtoon

It's a great gift idea for coffee lovers who would enjoy a unique coffee calendar.

Buy It Today: 2009 Sketchtoon Coffee Calendar: $19.99 + shipping.

Related Links
Check out Ricardo Levins Morales' very cool 2009 Coffee Calendar too!


The New Gig: Art Director at Northwoods Software

NWS-Door-NameSM.jpgLast November, I mentioned in detail Apple contacting me about a job opportunity with the iPhone/OS X design team. After taking time to ponder and reflect on the opportunity, I felt it wasn't the right move for myself or my family.

I loved living and working in Milwaukee, helping independent software developers with branding and design challenges at MakaluMedia.

These were the major reasons I decided to decline the Apple opportunity.

Fast forward to spring 2008.

Following several discussions with leadership team and design/development staff at Northwoods Software, I've been offered an art director position, which I have accepted. I start my new job in mid-May.

After 10 great years at MakaluMedia, I'm taking the next step.

A Tough Decision
This change was a very tough decision. I love the design work I do, the clients I help and the many colleagues I've had the pleasure to collaborate with. I've spent several years building a reputation for doing good design work, solving problems for my clients and being a designer who listens and is easy to work with.

There is nothing wrong with MakaluMedia. I've loved my time at MakaluMedia.

This change in direction is about new opportunities and challenges on multiple levels. This is the next step in my growth as a person, a designer and art director.

10 Years at MakaluMedia: Priceless
Working for MakaluMedia since 1998 has been a wonderful experience. Matt Henderson, the owner of MakaluMedia and I have been through quite a bit together.

office.jpgI was Matt's first employee, leaving a position with Hare Strigenz, a Milwaukee print design firm. I'd developed a passion for the web and wanted to learn the new medium by diving in head first.

I learned HTML from books and building sites in BBEdit. in 2003 I shifted from tabled design to web standards, thanks to Designing with Web Standards.

I was the first MakaluMedia employee to work fully remotely. This was way back in 1998 when it was still a little quirky and unusual. I produced my design work on a Powerbook Wallstreet, with a 19" Sony CRT on a folding table in my apartment.

I experienced a shift from larger design projects with the European Space Agency, to building a network of small, independent clients over several years. The first year was tough, but a long-term, steady approach to doing good work and making clients happy has paid off in many referrals, a backlog of work and profitability.

By working remotely and having to build my own network of clients and partners, I've effectively run a small design business. I've enjoyed the entire process: finding clients, winning projects, solving design challenges, selecting and managing partners, producing the solutions, invoicing the work and promoting the work.

These past 10 years have shaped who I am, formalized my iterative design process, provided a better understanding of business, built my knowledge of helping clients, improved my customer service and more. It's been a priceless experience.

Northwoods Opportunities & Challenges
Becoming an art director at Northwoods Software is a step in my process of growth as a designer and a person. I'll be working on larger projects, exercising research, analysis, problem solving and visual thinking skills in new and different ways. I'm looking forward to bringing what I've learned to new projects and users.

I'm very excited about working within a creative group again. Working alone has developed my focus, but I've missed being in an office with a small group of creative people. Over the years I've built a network of design colleagues online, but IM, Twitter and voice chats are just no substitute for having colleagues close at hand.

Sharing with my team will be satisfying part of the position. I'm looking forward to offering up my 20+ years of experience in design practice with colleagues. I hope that all of the joy and pain gained from many years of working on projects with clients will benefit my colleagues at Northwoods.

The company is focusing on new creative areas of expertise, and I'm extremely excited to be part of this. I'm hoping my skills and experiences in building a small design business from scratch will be helpful in this regard.

Finally, the company attracted me with its unique working environment, including a private office with shower and toilet, ping pong tables, popcorn on Thursdays, workout and nap rooms and space outside for frisbee. Northwoods' family first approach and flexibility made a positive impact on me, as I'm coming from a pretty family-friendly and flexible work at home environment.

All in all, I am very excited about this new Northwoods opportunity.

I'm very thankful to Matt Henderson for the opportunity to be a part of MakaluMedia these past 10 years. It's been a great ride, I've learned quite a bit, and I know the team will continue to produce great stuff.

I'm also grateful to the team at Northwoods, for making me a part of their team at this exciting time in the life of the company. I'm looking forward to being a contributor to Northwoods' success and growth.

Northwoods Movies & Photos
Tracy Apps, a friend of mine and my future Northwoods colleague, has grabbed several movie clips and photos of the Northwoods offices on Flickr. I thought would be fun to post several of them here for a little context. :-)

My New Office at Northwoods

Yep, that's my own private office with a window, bathroom, shower and vanity. Northwoods has retrofitted an old hospital space for their offices, so every employee gets an office just like this. Pretty slick.

The Creative Wing Tour

Tracy takes the camera down the hall from my office, and shows the central area where the ping pong tables and other amenities are located.

Brian Artka Scootering in the Creative Wing

A few weeks ago, Northwoods picked up scooters for the team, and of course my friend Brian Artka had to show off his scootering skillz!

Tracy's Extreme On-Board Scootering

Here we have Tracy capturing her thrill-a-minute extreme scooter ride!

Ping Pong Tables
working hard...
And here are several Northwoods team members playing ping pong.