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Entries in Sketches (67)


HoudahGeo Icon Design

houdahgeo-icon.pngJust this week I've completed the application icon for one of my MakaluMedia clients, Pierre Bernard of Houdah Software, on his latest beta application HoudahGeo. In June 2006, I designed the icon for Pierre's first OS X application, HoudahSpot.

HoudahGeo allows you to geocode photos with latitude, longitude and altitude information. Take your photos, "pin" their locations on the earth, then export information to EXIF tags or Google Earth KML files, letting you can see the images in Google Earth.

Pierre and I started working with pencil sketches, using a globe with photos stuck to the surface, and a satellite in orbit around it, as you can see below:


1. In my first sketches, I focused on a single satellite, beaming information to/from photos on the surface of the globe. At this stage I hadn't worked out continents or exact placement of the photos, but knew I liked this general idea.

2. Here I played around with the idea of both a satellite and a camera orbiting the earth, and had by this round, started exploring continents and image locations a bit more. In the end, we discussed the camera+satellite option and felt the camera was redundant and not necessary to get the message across.

Production Icons
Next I went to production, using Fireworks to create the vector-based artwork. After a rough first draft, Pierre had an idea to try a pushpin in place of a satellite, though in the end, we felt the satellite just worked better.

With each successive revision, the earth was refined, satellite tweaked, highlights, glows and adjustments made. Here I've placed the first 4 revisions together to give you an idea how the process generally works:


The final adjustments and tweaks happened on icon v5, including a size up of the earth about 5-6%, lightening of the satellite's pulse glow and a few adjustments to photo locations on the earth itself.

Fireworks as Tool of Choice
The construction if icons using vectors in Fireworks, greatly assists in these kind of subtle tweaks. Because all of the elements are created as vector items, they can be easily sized up and down with no degradation of image quality, or moved around without worrying about re-applying masks or filters.

For comparison purposes, here is the final, winning HoudahGeo icon v5:


Thanks Pierre for choosing to work with me and MakaluMedia on your latest Mac application! I had a great time working with you on another fun icon project. :-)


Red 66 Logo Design

red66-logo.gifIn mid-2006, Carlos Granier-Phelps contacted me at MakaluMedia, about designing a new logo for Red 66, his consulting business focusing on Web 2.0, usability, Internet video technologies, digital security, ratings analysis software for TV stations, and web/tech consulting for movies & TV.

I worked with Carlos to gather my standard information package his company structure and outward image goals, his likes, dislikes in color and design and other tidbits that would give me insight in the sketch stage of the project.

Carlos wanted the logo to embody many different aspects of his personality and his business, including: hip, clean, dynamic, safe, fun, global, innovative, and high-tech. Quite a challenge, but I felt confident that by working with Carlos through the normal sketch to final process, we would find the right solution.

First, I brought out the trusty Miquelrius sketchbook and pencil, and began capturing ideas as they came to mind, after reading Carlos' notes. Below I've posted thumbnails of complete sketches and artwork: click each image to see a full version:

Red 66 Sketches v1

Here you can see I explored a wide variety of ideas, playing with the interesting shapes created by dual 6s. I felt drawn to circular shapes enclosing or working with "66", as 6s are organic and round.

Carlos quite liked idea 27, since it seemed to capture Route 66, which was a positive thing in his mind, yet had a clean, simple look he was aiming for. He also liked 16 and 18, and oddly enough, liked the 2 Route 66-style ideas below 5 and 6, which I hadn't even highlighted on the page!

Red 66 Sketches v2So, after some discussion, I prepared a second set of sketches, focusing on the narrowed field of ideas.

Here you can see the Route 66 approach expanded greatly, along with square idea 18 and the circular idea 27 from the first round of sketches.

After review of the second set, and my suggestions to lean toward 9, 10 and 7, Carlos settled on these ideas to prepare black and white concepts to narrow to a finalized design.

Black & White Concepts
B&W detail v1This is a very critical phase, where my rough concept sketches are turned into production quality art. It is here, where a mark is proven to work, or not work in the simplest form possible — black and white. Often, this is the moment where an idea tends to shine and separate itself as the right solution, or fade as an also-ran. The Red 66 logo project was no exception, as the circular concept 9a immediately and clearly step out front as the winning black and white mark.

Color: Round 1
Color detail v1Outside of coming up with ideas, color can often be a tough stage. Colors are often emotional, which is why I like to have a solid black and white logo selected before moving to the color application phase. On set 1, I explored a variety of color combinations, taking into account Carlos' location in Miami as one aspect of color influence.

Color: Round 2
Based on this round we wanted to refine the color selections a bit more, to include brighter colors and explore reds and burgundy colors with similar tones and contrasting choices, like blue-green, orange and teal.

Color detail v2At this point, both Carlos and I honed in on idea 8.3 as our color winner. It had the nice light/dark red tones to reinforce the "red" theme, with a secondary Miami-influenced, cool retro blue-green outer ring for contrast. It had a muted, yet strong overall feel that we both liked.

Since creating the new mark, Carlos has applied it to his blog, and other materials. I'm very pleased with the simplicity and cleanliness of the Red 66 logo — it's organic and smooth, yet has a hint of hip retro Miami.

Thanks Carlos for working with MakaluMedia and I on your new Red 66 logo!


Business Opportunities Weblog Network Logo Design

In late 2006, Dane Carlson of the Business Opportunities Weblog Network contracted me BOWN Final Logoat MakaluMedia, to design an identity for his weblog network.

The Business Opportunities Weblog Network (BOWN) is described as a "moderated list of legitimate business opportunities for entrepreneurs", which features lists of business ideas, and tips.

Dane has been blogging since 2001, and wanted a new corporate identity that was fresh and clean, to help realign his blog.

So, Dane and I started through our normal process of getting information from goals, the business, his color and style likes and dislikes, and other useful information to help me develop good design ideas.

Dane liked the general idea of a lightbulb, so I included this idea, along with several other ideas, to make sure we explored all options.

While "Business Opportunities Weblog Network" was descriptive, it's a really long name to deal with when creating a logo design. It would be challenging to be find a way to list the full name and not let the words dominate the identity.

Another challenge, related to the long name, was keeping the identity simple and easily recognizable. How do you show a business network in a single symbol?

Once Dane's information was read and digested, I brought out the sketchbook and pencil to get ideas on paper. In 2 rounds of sketches I produced several interesting ideas, incorporating the lightbulb and other ideas for representations of a network. Here are a few selected sketches:

1. This idea featured "Business Opportunities" larger, and a briefcase fashioned from triangular shapes, woth "Weblog Network" tucked under the larger type.

2. On this concept, I've replaced the briefcase symbol with an interconnected triangular grid symbol, to emphasize the network nature of the name.

3. Here I'm indicating a stylized lightbulb to the left, Business with most emphasis and "Opportunities" and "Weblog Network" descending in size and importance.

4. The winning idea shows a lightbulb within a circular symbol on the left, and an alternate dark version on the right. The idea was to show the lightbulb as a node on a network, incorporating both a bulb and network in the logo.

bown-bw.gifBlack & White Art
Once the winning concept of a lightbulb on a network, inside of a circle containing the type was selected, I moved to produce the black and white version of the logo for Dane. The black and white phase went pretty quickly, and we both liked how the concept translated from sketch into black and white art. The next challenge was color.

Color Art
In the color phase, I wanted to show Dane some color varieties, but didn't want to do too many at one time, so I selected 3 color themes with both flat and gradated options, and presented them:


Our eyes were pretty immediately drawn to blue, orange and green. I also liked the blue/green option, though the orange center circle of the first idea (B&C) really seemed to convey a warmth to balance the cool crispness of the green and blue.

After a little deliberation, Dane chose the blue/orange/green option as the winner.

Just last week, Dane completed his redesign of the Business Opportunities Weblog Network weblog, and used the new logo design to shape his redesign. I really like how the colors feel warm, yet crisp and clean, and after not seeing the logo between delivery and appearance, I'm very pleased with how it turned out.

My thanks go to Dane Carlson for choosing to work with me and MakaluMedia on his new identity. We both had a great time collaborating and I think we came up with a fun, attractive logo design.


CGI Interactive Logo Design

Last year, after Paul Bradley came across Ian Landsman's Creating a Business Logo article, he asked if we could design a new logo for his company, cgi Interactive. One of my passions as design director at MakaluMedia is logo design and corporate identity, so I was excited to take on the project.

Paul's firm. cgi Interactive, is a software development company based in the North West of England, who develop custom web based applications for businesses. The CGI moniker had its touch-point in the Common Gateway Interface (CGI) programming done for clients in the early days of the Internet.

Paul wanted to maintain a connection to the past by keeping the CGI name, while coming up with a strong, clean logo to represent his company, on both the web and with other print materials (letterhead, envelopes and business cards).

Questions & Research
I started as I always do: asking questions of Paul about his company, goals, taste and thinking and doing my own gathering of information about the company. While it might seem trivial, the information gathering phase is critical — these are the words I ponder, as I prepare to sketch logo concepts that capture the company in a simple, iconic form.

cgi-sketches.jpgFrom my initial research, it seemed the logomark should be simple and clean, yet still have a bit of a human touch, as Paul mentioned a history of "bespoke" or custom software development.

Sketching Ideas
As I sketched ideas out, I began focusing on a mark made of the letters C, G and I — using them to form a compact object.

Rounded letter-forms turned into squared letter-forms. I liked the idea of the C wrapping itself around the I to form a "G" at the intersection. To reinforce the "I" character, I used a lower cased variation to take advantage of the dot.

Black & White Explorations
We both liked this direction, so my next step was to jump into Adobe Illustrator and create the letters in black and white vector form, where I could explore the relationships of the C, G and i elements:


Notice how the horizontal stroke of the "i" character extends into the counter of the capital C character, to form a G. Then, the dot of the i character fills out the upper right corner of the mark. I like creating logos in black and white first — to assure they work well in their simplest form.

The mark also created an unintentional, yet nice side effect — notice the appearance of of a person on the right, extending an arm into the C, with the dot of the "i" acting as the head? What a nice coincidence!

Color Explorations
Next up was the color phase, which was quite straightforward, as Paul knew he wanted cool blues and greens used. I explored some complimentary warm colors with the mark, but we kept coming back to a combination of dark sea green and a sky blue to capture a solid, professional feel:


Notice also the font used is a Myriad/Gill Sans blend with a little custom tweaking done on the letters. The "cgi" text was kept in the sky blue, and "Interactive" stayed in the dark sea green, corresponding to the colors chosen for the mark.

Paul was very pleased with the final logo design. He felt it captured the professional look he wanted to portray, yet still maintained a human touch, to represent the custom, collaborative projects cgi Interactive does. I had fun working on the logo design, facing the challenge and seeing a unique mark emerge from the letters themselves.

Since designing Paul's logo in 2005, we've had many interesting and challenging logo projects come from new and existing clients, keeping me happily busy doing what I love — logo design.

If you like this approach to logo design, and need logo or corporate identity design work, just drop me a line and let's talk! :-)


Mike Rohde's Design Sketch Kit

Last week I was talking with Makalu design colleague Alex Bendiken about tools I use for my logo, icon, web and print design sketch work. Lately he's been using sketches to quickly put multiple design ideas on paper — before moving to the computer.

As I described my sketch kit to Alex, I thought it'd be great to share a photo and the details on Flickr and in a post on my weblog. Turns out that my Custom Moleskine Planner photo with added notes has been very popular, so I took several shots of my sketch kit and placed them on Flickr, and in this very post:


The tools include:

1. Miquelrius A5 squared notebook (300 pages)
2. HiG A4 squared notebook (96 pages)
3. Faber-Castell E-Motion 1.4mm mechanical pencil (a gift from Fazal Majid)
4. Y&C Grip 350 0.7mm mechanical pencil
5. Gray kneadable eraser
6. Artec 6" acrylic triangle
7. Pickett Inking circle template

The larger HiG A4 notebook is better for web and print design where the sketches may need more space, the Miquelrius A5 is smaller and more portable, and my preferred choice for logo and icon design. I especially love how flexible the Miquelrius is, allowing me to fold the covers over for sketching or scanning.

I mainly use the Faber-Castell E-Motion for most sketches because the thick lead lays down a nice, smooth line, can put rich grays down quickly and resists breaking even when I press quite hard. The Y&C 0.7mm pencil works well for finer lines and details (more often used on web and print design comps that require fine details or handwritten descriptions.)

Support Tools
The Artec 6" acrylic triangle works well for putting down a crisp edge, and lets me see through it to the sketch underneath — handy for laying in text. My kneadable eraser is indispensable for cleaning up loose edges and stray marks (and works well for stress relief when needed). The Pickett circle guide comes in handy for quick, perfect circles, most often used on web and print design projects.

It's a simple toolkit, which works quite well... and it never needs batteries! :-)

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