your business, your logo

What's in a symbol?

Past conversations with clients or prospects as well as a few recent articles about the process of logo creation have me thinking today. You start a business, and you need an identity. Or, you feel the identity of your business does not correctly define your business or is not creating the impact you had hoped for. The first step in creating a business identity is the logo - the symbol that will bring associations of your business to the thoughts of clients and prospects. Often, small businesses cannot afford to pay much, or do not see the value in paying much, for a logo. Why does it cost so much for a designer to put together a logo - can't they just put something together quick and charge less? They are supposed to be creative, after all.

If your thought process leads you to cheaper is better, it is not impossible to come up with a logo for your business. However, take a step back and consider this: if you are providing a quality service or product, do your quality thresholds require a certain amount of time to achieve? And do you want to be paid for, and profit from, your work? Do you want material that speaks to the quality you produce? If the answers are, "yes", you can better understand the time and processes a designer takes to deliver this small, but important and effective symbol of your business to you.

Once you have your logo, everything else can grow and flow from there. Your identity material (cards, letterhead, envelopes), marketing material (brochures, folders, postcards, sell sheets, rack cards), and social media logo treatment (Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Google+) will all be based on the functionality and appearance of your logo. So you can see where that logo is the most important step in the development of your brand. Yet so often, it is given short thrift, little thought, minimal effort, and few resources.

Your logo, the symbol of your business, is the seed of all your business growth. It will likely be the first thing that prospects see about your company, before they meet you, before they even get a look at what that symbol represents. Logos are an important visual representation of your business. While everyone brings their interpretation to the logo, logos can enhance a first impression. Logos can build loyalty and establish a brand identity. Many hours of strategic thought may go into the creation of a logo. Or a logo can spring from a more personal preference, as the apple is said to have been for Steve Jobs. (Even so, think of everything the apple connotes - it packs a powerful wallop for such a simple symbol.)

Logos should be functional. They should work well anywhere. They should be easy to reproduce. They should be a distinct representation of your company and reproduce well in black and white. Logos that are less "trendy" have the ability to remain "current" with minimal changes over the course of decades.

There are three basic types of logos. The first two may be easier to pull off less expensively than the last. The first is a font-based logo - IBM, for example, or Sullivan & Sons plumbing. There are choices within this choice that may enlarge the scope of the logo project - what font to use? Something more classic? More modern? Conservative? Playful? Serif? Non-serif? Does my color choice enhance or detract from my message?

The second type of logo is an illustration - set apart, or integrated more closely with your business name. There are generic designed symbols available, e.g. a house for a realtor, a pen for a writer, a hammer for a carpenter. Here, there are questions about the art work. Is it available for commercial license? How many other realtors, or writers, or carpenters have that exact same logo? How does that logo differentiate you from all other competition in your profession? Custom designed illustrations can set you apart from the competition, but will cost more as they are being uniquely created for you.

The third basic type is an abstract, custom created symbol. The Nike symbol requires communication of underlying associations with the symbol. Apple is rather an abstract symbol for a computer, iPod, or iPhone. The ReMax balloon is an abstract, but eye-catching logo for a real estate business. Again, symbol, font, color choices all play into the design of a custom logo.

The bottom line is, whatever your budget, whatever your preference for logo type, you should work with a designer to produce the best symbol possible for your business. Your business is unique, and your logo should reflect that. You should look toward your designer for creative ideas and suggestions, but you should also be part of the process and provide insightful information about your company, after all, you know it best.

For a look at the design process in action, check out this online article via Imprint on Paul Rand + Steve Jobs, a peek at the process that designer Paul Rand followed when he created a logo for NeXT, Steve's second act. Also an interesting article on design is this question about the NASA design - do you prefer the "worm" or a "meatball"? I have to say, while I am not a vegetarian, in this case at least, I am not a fan of the meatball.

cmc landscaping

There's nothing like a nice lush green lawn.

cmc home page
Earlier this year, I had the opportunity to create a new website for CMC Landscaping along with some ad work. The company wanted a simple, clean site to replace an older site. I opted for rotating banners, some of which change seasonally, at the top to highlight some of their key service areas. The company also wanted some limited time offers resembling coupons placed on the home page to highlight special offers for the season.

The site has been recently updated to reflect their fall cleanup specials and to lead into their winter season. Another enhancement made this fall was the addition of Zip Bars to keep the pages uncluttered and keep relevant information above the fold and accessible with a click. As the site progresses, we will be adding photos of all the great work CMC Landscaping does! If you're in the Walpole/Norfolk area and in need of fall cleanups, landscaping projects before the snow starts flying, or winter plowing, give them a call!

rally for ally bike run

Rally for Ally Bike Run: VROOM, VROOM.

rally for ally bike logo
The second fundraiser for the Alexandra Smith Foundation, a motorcycle ride through Walpole and adjacent towns, was held June 26th. Everyone had a great time, and we raised more money to help provide extra care services for Ally Smith, who suffered a Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) in December. Since this event was so different from the first Rally for Ally, the event planners wanted a different logo. So I came up with the Rally for Ally bike.

I knew immediately that I wanted to incorporate the event title in the bike, and it wasn't too long before I thought of giving the text a 60's feel—a photo of Ally at an outdoor concert inspired that idea. I found "Keep on Truckin'" at Dafont. I purchased a commercial copy for about $20, but it is free on Dafont for personal use.

It's one thing to know what you want, and another to actually get the effect you want. I had no experience drawing motorcycles. Initially I thought of tracing motorcycle photos in Illustrator but in some cases, I felt like I lost important detail. So, using a photo as a guide, I began with the tires and body, contorting the text into the shape I needed. I decided to give the tires a little spin and to alter them so they were not perfectly round and stagnant. Decisions had to be made on what detail to leave in and what detail to take out. The handlebars were the trickiest part; my first efforts looked like a scooter. Initially, the plan was to keep the logo in two colors (red and orange and red and slate blue were initial options) but we decided to go full color. A few little curly cues in the back for exhaust added a little flair.

Once the logo was set, I reformatted the flyer, poster, and collection can layouts from the first event and carried the bike run theme throughout. We updated the website with the logo and created an easy registration mechanism through PayPal. Printing donations helped us get the flyers, signage, and other collateral into the community. Initially we planned to go with two-color print on shirts, but we got a break on tee-shirt printing too, so decided to go with full color and the logo was optimized for the tees. We promoted the event through various biking websites and event pages.

Event day was beautiful. About 200 bikers showed up for the ride at the Walpole VFW. Food donations allowed us to provide coffee, pastries, and fruit before the ride and a delicious barbecue afterwards. A few local bands provided entertainment. I had a lot of fun taking photos that day, as did other photog enthusiasts! Pictures of the ride are up on Ally's site and there are also plenty of photos on Ally's Facebook page, Ally's Road to Recovery.


duck duck ... duck


Ducks, ducks, and more ducks.

The Neponset Valley Sunrise Rotary Club has run Duck Race on the Charles in Dedham for a number of years; this year marked its 9th year. The duck race is an endeavor that puts plenty of "fun" back into fund raiser. Check out some of the Duck Race photos.

Racing ducks, not to be confused with our little yellow rubber "spokesduck," are " adopted" and numbered. First duck to cross the finish line wins $1,000 for the person having the corresponding number. There are also second, third, and fourth place prizes, not to mention free food, games, face-painting, pony rides and the like on the day of the race.

Last year, I revised the look of the flyers and posters, created a save the date half-flyer, and we created a Facebook page for our ducky friends; visit them at Duck Race on the Charles. NVS Rotary hopes you will like their page too. (The spokesduck tends to quack a little less in the winter months, but he'll have plenty to say come spring time.)

The Duck Race had pretty good press. Releases were submitted to local papers, the Patch, Our Town, and other media sites. This year, I ramped up Duck Race banners, carrying design elements over from the flyers and posters. With these banners, I had the chance to work a little larger than I normally do, which was a lot of fun; the largest banner was about 15 feet. Here's the jpg below. The banners were produced through Norwood Printing. They did great work.



File compression can lead to depressing results.

One of the biggest problems I run into is dealing with misunderstandings about file types and their appropriate uses on the web and in print. We have become so used to "getting stuff from the web" that people tend to think they can save any jpg, png, or gif graphic they have found on the web to their hard drive and use it for print or other media. You can't do that and expect to have a good looking print job. Why? One of the biggest reasons is file compression.

Files for web are, generally speaking, highly compressed. Files are compressed because some can be quite large, and large files require more disk storage and download more slowly. Files for web have been compressed for optimal screen viewing - to display clearly, but to take up as little storage space as possible and to download quickly. They are compressed for screen viewing - 72 dpi (dots per inch). Printed material often requires about 300 dpi - or more! That can add up to a lot of detail lost in your photo or logo.

To then take that photo and increase it to the size needed for a brochure or newsletter, you are asking the computer to fill in bits of information that it does not have. The result - a very pixelated view.

One of the biggest tip-offs that you may have a problem getting a jpg printed is the size of the file. Smaller size files like 20kb - 100kb are not going to be able to be scaled up with good results. Those are going to be more suitable for web. If you have a file of about 300kb, that could be workable for a small printed photo. Larger files of 1MB or more will yield better results for printing. Smaller files will yield better results at smaller print sizes. I like to think of file size/photo size as someone once described the art of selling and setting prices for products - "It is easier to cometh down than to goeth up."

Whenever you look to complete a finished product - website, social media sites, printed brochure, banner, tee-shirt, the best thing to do is consider what quality and size you need for each media. When printing materials, it is also best to know where it will be printed, to find out what the specs are from that printer, and work with the printer to deliver files in the best condition possible to have the best outcome.

Quality in results in quality out.

bert monroy

Bert Monroy, pushing the limits of software design.

A few years back, at a National Association of Photoshop Professionals (NAPP) Photoshop World, I attended a seminar held by Bert Monroy. His digital "paintings" blew me away back then, but his latest effort is truly incredible. He has really pushed the limits of software and hardware with his latest creation, "Times Square." In addition to being an incredible work of art, it is also an homage to Photoshop developers and professional photographers, featuring quite a few of those characters within the work. The finished painting will be on display at Photoshop World, March 30 to April 1 in Orlando, FL.

The image size is 60 x 300 inches and took four years to create. The overall image contains over 500,000 layers (total of all the files) and is comprised of almost 3,000 individual Photoshop and Illustrator files. Check out "Times Square" and see it for yourself.


the alexandra smith foundation

On December 28, 2010, the lives of my friends were changed in an instant.

Their daughter, Alexandra (Ally) Smith suffered a Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) in a two-car collision. As of February 9, Ally remains in a coma, but has fought through surgeries and medical issues and is currently at Spaulding Rehabilitation Hospital in Boston undergoing extensive therapy. Happily, family, friends, and community have rushed in to provide support in so many ways: a shoulder to lean on, lodging near Beth Israel where Ally was first taken, food delivered to the hospital, hot meals delivered to the family, financial support, volunteer support for fundraising, and so much more. It was clear from the beginning that we should do our best to provide financial support to help pay for the daunting medical and care costs that come with TBI. So, The Alexandra Smith Foundation to support Ally Smith was established.

Rally for Ally postcard
This will not be a blog about running the gamut of emotions, circling back and forth between sadness, disbelief, hope, and celebrating milestones large and small. This is about using your ability to help where you can. Fortunately, with my background in communications, design, writing, and fundraising, I was able to help provide the foundation with design materials needed to make a start. My advice to give to anyone in such a situation would be: whatever your design capabilities and software skills, try to keep your communications clean, to the point, easy to read, and consistent.

First, we needed a logo. Ally, an assistant at Tufts Veterinary Emergency Treatment had dreams of being a veterinarian; she has always loved working with animals, has ridden horses for many years competitively and for fun, and is caretaker for a number of dogs and horses in the area. Horses? Dogs? I knew I wanted a reference to her love of animals. I started a few rough sketches. Eh. She is also known for her easy-going nature, and her smile. "Ally's smile" was mentioned by nearly everyone who came to visit at Beth Israel. I chose a well-known non-serif typeface - Myriad Pro, and I gave a small nod to her love of animals with a paw print over the "i" in "smith". I wanted her name to stand out and be easily recognized through the community. I nestled "the" at the top, and used a curved line, representative of her great big smile to tie in her name with "foundation." I was pretty sure the main color would be red. I did experiment with green, Ally's favorite color, but red is a color that commands attention, and I knew we needed to draw that attention to the situation.

Flyer for Rally for Ally
I tabled the idea of letterhead and other identity material for the time being, and moved right on to development of the website. A Facebook Page, Ally's Road to Recovery, was already established, and growing (1,039 supporters to date), so it made sense to be able to quickly bring that community to a website. Ally's boyfriend, Bobby locked up a domain name for us and prepared information for the press, some of which we used for the text of the website. Using Real Mac's RapidWeaver, I chose a new theme, SNo3, from seyDesign as my starter template. I loved the ability to add a slideshow at the top of the page, but kept the slideshow just to the home page and opted just for one picture on each of the other pages. I had a few photos to work with, supplied by Ally's sister Vanessa. I gave them a quick brush up in Photoshop and formatted them before loading them in. Some of the pages still need a bit of work, but we managed to get enough information in there for a good start and the site launched on January 17, 2011.

Rally for Ally logo
In the meantime, I was drawn into the Team Ally meetings regarding a quick first fundraiser. That's where I met Dave Thornton, who happened to be the brother of a fellow Rotarian. Dave is an idea guy. Lots and lots of ideas. That snowballed into a logo for the "Rally for Ally" (coined by Dave) fundraiser to be held on February 12th at Finnegan's Wake, and posters, and flyers, and can wrappers, and labels, and postcards. I began with the logo. "Can we have that today?" I had to work fast. I wanted to come up with something that incorporated more of a feel for Ally's love of horses, so I designed a rope brush in Illustrator, used Myriad Pro again, but tweaked the edges of the letters, and stuck to the same color. Then I turned my attention to the poster and flyer, the can wrappers, the wine labels, logos for tee-shirts and banners, trying to keep it fast and consistent. Thanks to Dave Luongo and Bay State Envelope for the printing services and for making it all look fantastic!

We expect the Rally for Ally on February 12th to be a great time for a great cause, to help a young lady who has touched so many lives in her 23 years. We continue to pray for her full recovery.

al and cal realty group

identity material

Al & Cal Realty Group wanted a new, cohesive updated brand image.

The best place to start is by asking questions and creating a look that meets each clients' needs. We began by talking about their business and clientele, their approach, and their future plans. In this case, it was important to keep the Keller Williams logo visible and prominent. There were some guidelines to follow with KW, but Al and Cal also recognized the need to develop their own team identity. The color scheme was built on the Keller Williams red, and an accompanying blue was chosen.

After some discussion, the first step was to develop their logo using their Realty Group name - Al and Cal. A few different looks were developed incorporating different parts of a home. The final logo is a result of playing with the idea of using their names as a foundation and walls of a house. The "l" in "cal" was extended up through the roof to provide the look and feel of a chimney. Their website can be added below to give more height to the home, or the "house" can also function as an arrow, pointing up towards important information, or, down the road, a series of taglines. The logo was also designed with Facebook, Twitter, Linked In and other social media in mind.

Once the logo was developed, I played with a few different looks for letterhead, cards, and envelope. Their logo was placed on the right on both the letterhead and envelope to take advantage of the way we read - left to right - giving that a bit of a "final say." With the initial identity materials in the final stages, their image can now be incorporated in all their marketing material.

just for fun

film strip

Video—just for the fun of it.

There are many good reasons to consider posting videos on your website. This may not be one of them, but as I was fiddling around with uploading and embedding videos, I thought it would be nice to create a page just for fun and share a couple that can be found on Vimeo.

a multi-channel campaign

Multi Channel

Think you can do without print? Or do without marketing through electronic channels?

Think again.

According to a 2008 study by InfoTrends, more than 200 marketers who were surveyed reported an improvement of 35% for multi-channel campaigns (print, e-mail, web landing page) over single channel print-only campaigns. Personalization further improved campaign performance: marketers reported an average improvement of close to 50% for personalized multi-channel campaigns over print-only campaigns.

It is interesting to note that using single-channel electronic media is not as effective as the multi-channel approach either. More channels elicit greater response than single channel marketing.

How can you create a multi-channel campaign? One example is to send a postcard that invites recipients to a URL, then send a follow-up thank you e-mail for visiting. Or invite people to your website where they can select various product or service options, and send a follow-up brochure or e-mail based on their interests. You can utilize the power of social media too — provide a discount or other incentive on Facebook with a link to a URL, ask the visitor to act (buy now, more information, etc.) then follow-up with an e-mail or mailing. The more consistency in your marketing message and the appearance of your print, web, and e-mail design, the better. Be sure to create as cohesive a look as you can.

For more than 60% of those surveyed, multi-channel campaigns improved response rate and customer acquisition, retention, and satisfaction. An increase in sales conversion was also noted. The bottom line improved with increases in overall revenue, profitability and sales. Another plus? Nearly half of those surveyed reported a reduction in the cost per lead.

rickard company website

Rickard Company Website

I've been working on a new identity for Rickard Company, a construction company focused on Commercial Renovation and Repair.

The job began with a new logo—something simple and straightforward that reflected the company's focus on commercial renovation. A bit of embossing was added to the logo letteringto give it a raised, metal feel. A business card was designed from the logo with a blueprint background, embossed lines, and pertinent information.
Rickard Business Card
The header for the website reflects the look of the business card. Red accents were added to contrast with the blue / gray theme and to allow certain information - like the contact phone number to stand out. On the back end, a site map, browser and description information, and keywords will help with Search Engine Optimization. In the future, we'll be adding photographs and more information to round out the site!

quackin' up

duck race
The Neponset Valley Sunrise Rotary Club is getting ready for the annual Duck Race on the Charles. The Club will be selling ducks at local supermarkets over the next few weekends and you can adopt a duck by going to Many business sponsorships are also available. The event will support many local and international charities and it promises to be LOTS of family fun.

To produce this flyer, I chose a template that I've used for other Rotary events, but I wanted to inject a bit of fun into it. I reversed the template by moving the gradient to the bottom (rather than the top) and left the top open and white. The blue gradient on the bottom also helped create the feeling of the ducks floating on water. I got my hands on a rubber duck, shot a quick picture in my office, spiffed the duck up in Photoshop, added a drop shadow and pulled it into the In Design layout.

One duck looked a little lonely so I added a couple of others to make it look more like a race. I played around with object effects until I got a look I liked. Red and yellow text was used to draw more attention to the flyer. I added an outline to some of the text to help it stand out more, and added a few effects to some of the text as well. For another marketing tool, I created a a Facebook Duck Race on the Charles page and used a piece of the layout (the Duck Race on the Charles text and the duck heads) for the profile photo.

Duck Race 1 PDF

return of the puzzle

program cover
Last month I used AV Bros Puzzle Pro once again for a program/ad booklet. The booklet was made for the Neponset Valley Sunrise Rotary Club's first annual Service Above Self Award. The Award was presented to the Challenger Program at a dinner to boost awareness of and to benefit the program and other Rotary charities. The Challenger Program in Norwood provides sports programs for intellectually and physically challenged youth. Eighteen years ago they began with Little League Baseball and have grown to include football, soccer, and basketball programs for Norwood and surrounding Neponset Valley towns. Steve Grogan, Patriot's Hall of Famer, was the keynote speaker, and the athletes that attended were delighted that he signed their programs.

In putting the booklet together, I began by reviewing digital photos that were provided by the Challenger Program. I knew I would need at least six (for a six piece puzzle, two columns, three rows) and that I wanted to represent every activity the program supported—including skating activities. I also chose a few extra photos so that I had alternates at hand. I knew the cover area would be 8.5 x 5 and created a document in Photoshop that would fit approximately within the parameters of the final layout (there is actually a quarter inch white space around the picture to the right).

Color choices of blue and yellow fit well with the Rotary logo and Challenger uniform colors. I filled the background layer with blue and added a layer with a yellow star pattern. After several adjustments to both layers the stars were faintly visible in between the photos and the background framed the collage. Since I knew I would use the puzzle splitter, I placed the photos carefully in a grid to retain a more or less complete photo within each puzzle piece. I managed to fit seven pictures in, combining a football player with football teammates in the second row, column 2.

When the collage was split with the Puzzle Pro filter, adjustments were made to the tabs for a better overall look. I pulled the pieces out into five files, created clipping paths, converted to eps and placed them in the (Quark) layout. Text was then added and the text and images were arranged for this final look.

happy cinco de mayo

To celebrate Cinco de Mayo, I thought it would be fun to take a look at fonts designed by typeface designers in Mexico. The 2010 Type Directors Club award winners includes Cristobal Henestrosa of Mexico City. Cristobal's revival typeface, Espinosa Nova, is based on types used by Antonio de Espinosa, a Mexican printer of the 16th century. The typeface is number six on the TDC list. (Another winner, Deliscript, was recently showcased by For a list of Mexican (or Mexican inspired) typeface designers and a few typeface samples, you can visit the Mexico Font Scene.

If you’d like to see some modern Mexican graphic design, check out this sampling on Blog of Francesco Mugnai. The blog features Mexican design that they deem the "world's best."

lorem ipsum whatum?

When creating design mock-ups of websites, newsletters, brochures, ads and just about any other material that includes text, designers often use a filler text—Lorem Ipsum. Lorem is a dummy text used by printers and typesetters since the 16th century; the current standard form was most likely developed in the 1960’s. The text makes a great content placeholder because it has good letter distribution, looks like readable text, and pulls a client’s focus to the overall design and away from the meaning of the text.

The currently used standard Lorem Ipsum text reads:

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipisicing elit, sed do eiusmod tempor incididunt ut labore et dolore magna aliqua. Ut enim ad minim veniam, quis nostrud exercitation ullamco laboris nisi ut aliquip ex ea commodo consequat. Duis aute irure dolor in reprehenderit in voluptate velit esse cillum dolore eu fugiat nulla pariatur. Excepteur sint occaecat cupidatat non proident, sunt in culpa qui officia deserunt mollit anim id est laborum.

There are many variations of “lorem ipsum” text, some humorous. There are also lorem text generators online where you can obtain generated text that should be free of meaning and embarrassing word choices/combinations. Many text generators can produce text in multiple paragraphs, bulleted lists, etc.

Lorem Ipsum text is said to have stemmed from a passage by Cicero, written in 45 BC, which makes its origins more than 2,000 years old. Richard McClintock, a Latin professor at Hampden-Sidney College in Virginia traced the words back to a text from 1.10.32-33 of Cicero’s de Finibus Bolorum et Malorum (roughly translates to On the Ends of Good and Evil), a treatise on the theory of ethics popular during the Renaissance. Lorem Ipsum text is not meant to have meaning and is not pure Latin text; words and letters from the Cicero passages have been omitted in the Lorem Ipsum text. To see the entire passage and the words and letters of Lorem Ipsum text that were pulled from it, you can visit ( also features a text generator.)

To read a 1914 translation of Cicero’s passages by H. Rackham, you can visit Wikipedia. It shows the major source of Lorem Ipsum highlighted in that translation to be read as follows:

“Nor again is there anyone who loves or pursues or desires to obtain pain of itself, because it is pain, but occasionally circumstances occur in which toil and pain can procure him some great pleasure. To take a trivial example, which of us ever undertakes laborious physical exercise, except to obtain some advantage from it? But who has any right to find fault with a man who chooses to enjoy a pleasure that has no annoying consequences, or one who avoids a pain that produces no resultant pleasure?”


comments function

Yesterday I uploaded my new site and transferred it to its new official home at After that was done, I added the JS-Kit for commenting. The Echo commenting has a lot of rich features, which I may take advantage of down the line. For now, however, I only enabled simple commenting. To test it out, I copied over the few comments from the old system. Seems to be working just fine.

Scrivo! website update

Well, my site sure has changed a bit from February. The site was built in RapidWeaver. I love the extra content areas provided by the template (seyDesign), and with the addition of the Stacks plug-in by YourHead software, I felt like I gained a lot more flexibility on the fly and the look of the pages really changed. I built in more news bits and an events section, and hope to keep up with my own site and change that content regularly.

While I do have to beef up the photography and design portfolios (particularly the design portfolio) and bring in some other samples there, I thought I would give this another review today and post as is for now. Sometimes a little distance and a break can help you refocus!

new Scrivo! site

scrivo web
Ahhh, another website design. Here I am at 8:00 pm reviewing old blog content and transitioning it over to my new blog.

I am extremely excited to be launching a new website. Over the last year I began to build websites with RapidWeaver and also began to learn Dreamweaver.

Website design marks the first time I will have used templates for design, but since I am more familiar with designing than coding, I thought I should take small steps. RapidWeaver, and the templates built for RapidWeaver, seemed like a good first step. New themes for RapidWeaver that are produced by seyDesign really have me excited since they have a lot of built-in customization, and I have begun building sample sites in Dreamweaver.

The template I am using for the new Scrivo! site is GiD3OUS, a theme by seyDesign. I wanted a natural, light, water / beach feel for the site without drifting too far away from my color scheme of blue/gray. Since I am redesigning all my material now, I'm sure there will be a lot of interplay before I settle on a look, and I plan to try different colors with my business card and letterhead.

I am indeed giddy to be producing a new website (and other identity materials) for Scrivo! — but I will be even more "GiD3OUS" when it is completed.

safehome custom construction website

Scrivo! created a logo and website for SafeHome Custom Construction. The website was launched mid-January and updates have been taking place all month. The client requested green and orange for a color scheme, so green was used as the primary color and orange as the accent. The colors are reminiscent of the colors of the Irish flag, keeping with the owner's Irish heritage.

SafeHome Custom Construction tackles a wide range of projects. A few of my favorites are the killer kitchens and bathrooms, some of which are featured on the website. In putting together the site, we wanted to showcase Gerry's amazing custom designs and woodworking skills, but also wanted to showcase his range – everything from residential to commercial to industrial. "Ain't no mountain high enough" to keep him from successful completion of a specialty project.

On the website, I used a variety of photos supplied by SafeHome. Many were installed as a flash photo display, but since flash is not SEO friendly and does not display on some browsers and smart phones, separate albums were created for kitchen and bath displays.

On the front page the smaller photos are linked to take viewers further into the site. Larger photos can be viewed within the photo albums.



The truth is rarely pure and never simple. - Oscar Wilde

Annual Report FrontAnnual Report back
I recently wrapped up an Annual Report for Ursuline. I had the chance to create a look with puzzle pieces, something I’ve always wanted to do. I used puzzle shapes in Photoshop CS4 (customizing them to suit each picture) and Puzzle Pro by AV Brothers to make the theme a fun reality. (front and back covers shown here).

Photoshop comes equipped with plenty of shapes and there are a few puzzle shapes included. First, I processed and formatted each photograph in Photoshop, leaving enough room around the subject to accommodate puzzle tabs and indents. Next, I selected the shape I thought would best fit the photo. That created a shape mask layer above the photo layer. I moved the photo layer up above the shape layer, changed the setting from normal to overlay, and voila, the picture appears in the shape. I customized shapes as necessary — rotating, scaling, or using the pen tool to add and delete anchor points and the selection tool to pull the indents and tabs where I wanted them. I also used the pen tool to create side and corner pieces for variety. Clipping paths were created and adjusted. A copy of the layered psd file was saved as an eps, ready to import.

I used Puzzle Pro to "cut" other photos and collages to create the look of several pieces fitted together. The cover was a collage created with Photoshop then processed with the Puzzle Pro filter and saved as a layered psd file so that I could pull the pieces apart. It was necessary to adjust the tabs and indents so that faces were not cut in half and to introduce more variety in the "cut" of each piece. I ended up importing those in separate files, then scrambled them across the page. The back cover is a reduced collage / puzzle intact, with a few "contact" pieces along the side.

I added similar bevels and depth to all the puzzle pieces within Photoshop and the Puzzle Pro filter, and added a drop shadow once they were imported into Quark to make them pop a bit on the page. I would now recommend adding a drop shadow in Photoshop for a smoother, worry free workflow.
Two page spread

Almost every page spread features a one column back photo (two page spread, right) - ice for the hockey player, grass for the field hockey player, pool water for the swimmer, a cello for the musician, etc... Any subhead on the left page picks up the color of the backing photo on the right side. Rules were in a gold tone, listings were set four-column on the left and two-column on the right page.

bashful baker website

bashful website
The Bashful Baker was overdue for a website change. Check out their new website, The website was designed with RapidWeaver, a great little program. I began with a template and customized it to suit the bakery.

I had a lot of fun putting the new Bashful website together on their new domain. In addition to their quality desserts and goodies being handcrafted using the finest ingredients, their desserts are fresh, so we decided to play around with that and the fact that they may not be all that “bashful.”

Writing copy for the bakery is always fun; while they are serious about their cakes and pastries, they have a wry sense of humor. While I don’t consider myself that much of a computer geek, the commentary on the contact page sprang from a spirited conversation about computers.

I shot the mini-pastries which debuted on the front page when I uploaded it this month. (Yeah, taking pictures of delicious pastries is a tough assignment, I know, but someone had to do it.) I also shot several other photos featured in the main content areas or sidebars of other pages; one of my favorites was the cocoa dusting on the tiramisu on the contact page. Many of the wedding cake photos were contributed by other wedding and event photographers.

In addition to the site, I created design pages using a custom background and photos that the bakers had on hand. We printed some up for their photo album and also downloaded many of the designs into a digital photo album they can use as a sales tool.


serviam reviews

A couple of reviews regarding the last issue of Serviam for Ursuline Academy.

"This publication has been very well received - Bravo!" (Patrice Howard, UA)

"This latest issue of Serviam magazine has been incredibly well received by our readers, especially the Ursuline alumnae, who count on Serviam to stay in touch with what is happening at their alma mater. The feedback has all been positive and has created an excitement about the school's new Strategic Plan. We enjoy working with Lisa because she really listens and pays attention to every detail which results in an excellent publication. Thanks Lisa!" (Barbara J.Lavalle, Director of Advancement)

serviam magazine

layout page 4
I am really excited about one project that is making its way to the Ursuline Academy community now — the Serviam Magazine. Another makeover was called for, and my focus was to create a clean design which continued make use of color but did not hamper the readability of the magazine. (Pictured at right, page 4)

When creating a design, it’s important to create a good structure with repetitive elements. I chose a 3 column setup and used rounded green (PMS 625) boxes which bled off the bottom of the page on the left hand pages and off the top of the page on the right hand pages. Lowercase headers were used to introduce new sections; on left hand pages the headers were set above the rounded
page 20
box and on the right hand pages were set over the box. The headers were generally set in an opaque tint of the main color.

Inconsistency creates chaos, but too much consistency creates boredom. At some point you have to break the mold a bit — or altogether — so I chose my change-ups carefully. For example, on page 20 (pictured at right), the color scheme became a gold box with some purple text, fitting for a page on spirituality, but in keeping with the basic formula. When reviewing my photographs ( for shots of spirituality, Patrice Howard ’04, UA’s Director of Communications, decided to write an article on Liturgical Dance, an aspect of spirituality that had not been strongly featured before.

page 21
For page 21(pictured at right), we chose to highlight UA’s drama club using Dan Busler’s excellent photography ( Dan takes amazing performance shots and he gladly supplied us with photos he took at two UA plays. I chose a simple red curtain for the background from, made the box on the right a transparent black, and used yellow text which brightened the page and also complemented the yellow tones in some of Dan’s photographs.

On pages 15, 18, and 22, I dramatically altered the formula or dispensed with it altogether. On page 15, using a backdrop of the famous UA rhododendrons, I created a straight-forward collage of photos shot by Patrice (who took the Serviam cover shot) and myself. After discussing the layout a few times,we went with a full color back and simple white frames around the pictures. Other info on the page echoes elements found throughout the magazine.

Page 18 retains some of the elements from other pages, the round photo bleeding off to the left, the intro header, a pull quote, but we added a light yellow back and brought in a touch of other colors in the header and subhead. In addition to those brick and blue colors just looking right, they are also similar to the colors of the Haitian flag, apropos for an article on service in Haiti.

Patrice wanted a travel picture collage for the trip to Washington D.C., and the focus was on fun. I dispensed with the standard layout altogether. There were so many cool photos, shot by Patrice, from which to choose. I settled on six and set them in frames to give them a Polaroid feel. Handwritten text beneath the photos, a bit of a sassy attitude, a touch of stars on the background photo, and stripes for the main text completed the look. The page was built in Photoshop and imported into the layout program.

Pages 15, 18, and 22 are pictured below.

page 15
page 18
page 22

The Serviam Magazine is 28 pages, and it includes an extra 12 page Strategic Plan with its own cover shot. The cover shot is one of my best and a personal favorite. (Pictured at right.)

While it looked great in its original state, it did require a little alteration to suit the requirements for the cover. More on that “magic” another time. For the strategic plan, we wanted to use a layout to differentiate it from the magazine, but the colors and design elements utilized in the plan “recall” those elements found in the magazine, which results in a more smooth, less jarring, transition.


color of the year: mimosa

Pantone, an authority on color and the primary provider of professional color standards for the design industries, has selected a warm yellow–”Mimosa”–as color of the year for 2009.

The color was chosen for its expression of hope and reassurance in a time of uncertainty. Leatrice Eiseman, executive director of the Pantone Color Institute, spoke of the color yellow’s reflection of the “nurturing quality of the sun.” Yellow is the color of “enlightenment” and Mimosa is expected to be a “hue that sparks imagination and innovation.”

Mimosa, and any yellow in general, is an attention getter, and it pairs well with any other color. It appeals to men and women and to people of all ages.

A yellow background for brochures, newsletters, and flyers will be sure to attract attention to your marketing piece. Yellow can also be a great accent color for logos and marketing material. If used well, yellow might be the perfect accent color to freshen up your marketing materials, signage, and website.

We can all use a little hope and cheer this year, and yellow may be just the trick; expect this popular color to crop up often in design and fashion in 2009 and 2010.

Need to freshen up your marketing materials? Start here!

christmas card time

xmas card front
I’d advise any business person who plans to send holiday cards to think about card design well in advance of the holiday season. Sending cards can be fun. Scrambling to get them designed at the last minute — a lot less fun.

I seem to recall saying last year that I would take more holiday photos so I had more choice for a photograph this year for my holiday card. Well, although I took lots of family photos, I never did take a lot more photos that I felt comfortable using for this project. I experimented with a few of them — and a few different designs — but decided to save them for another day. I opted to get away from the photo card again this year and designed this year’s card using text and illustration.

xmas card inside
The two things I did accomplish this year were to set aside time early on to create a card and to create the illustration myself for a change. I am happy to say, I hit my deadline of sending my cards off to print before Thanksgiving. I may even have them in hand before Thanksgiving! (With a little more planning, I may get them done before Halloween next year.)

casamar villa brochure

I have recently finished an 8.5 x 11 brochure for Casamar Villa in Mexico. Casamar is a small villa located near Puerto Escondido in Oaxaca. The proprietors of the villa added suites to their property and are making many changes to their business. They wanted to expand their clientele beyond the surfing community (Puerto is a surfer’s paradise) and are now marketing to clientele of all ages who are in search of a peaceful place to vacation while enjoying the cultural, environmental, and athletic adventures available.
brochure outside
brochure inside

In addition to creating the brochure, the client was also creating a new website. The website has undergone several transformations, but the colors of the inside panels, and to some extent the outside panels, of the brochure were originally selected with the website in mind.

Most of the photographs were taken by a local photographer in Mexico. I used those initial photos to get a feel of the villa and the surrounding area. A few photos were supplied later by the clients and through iStock photo.
surf panel

The initial design featured one entire panel given over to kneeboard photos, and then surf photos (with the exception of the wildlife photo that is in place in this version at bottom right). I really liked putting that panel together and I loved the energy of the panel.

But because the target market was evolving, that focus on surfing was scaled back and more photos of boating, wildlife, horseback riding, etc. were introduced throughout the entire brochure. As more changes are made to the villa, Casamar’s marketing pieces and website will continue to evolve as well.

Need to freshen up your marketing? Contact Scrivo!

newsletter redesign

2 page spread
Over the spring, I redesigned Ursuline Academy’s newsletter. One of the biggest changes was to go from a black and PMS interior to full color. The final piece is five color: CMYK plus PMS 625 (green).

With the introduction of color, it’s tempting to focus on the use of color versus the overall impact of the layout. I decided to “let the pictures do the talking” by allowing them to be the most vibrant color source on the page.

I did introduce different pastels, a light blue for the swim article (on the 11 x 17 interior spread shown above), a hint of “brick”, a pale yellow, a little pink and lilac, for some background graphics and article boxes. But, for the most part I left article boxes in a shade of green (the school color) and used the PMS for article headers and for the silhouettes (the theme was “the faces of Ursuline”).

Some common elements throughout the newsletter were: the subject headers at the top with a dotted line and their circle photo counterparts, the silhouettes with facts about the school and the students, green circles with page numbers, green article headers and black subheads, a green frame and shadow around the photos — which pulled them off the page, and several photos of faces around which text was wrapped, like the one in the lower right corner of the sample above. Most of the text in the newsletter appears in black on a white background to enhance readability.

Once a consistent layout was designed, the pattern was occasionally broken to avoid monotony, deal with the requirements of the stories or photos, and to keep each spread fresh.

adding artwork to a design

At the beginning of November I decided it was time to get cracking on my own Christmas card. In last year’s card, I took some of my random photos and placed them into an accordion fold template. This year, I wanted to do something different and toyed with a few ideas. Initially I had an idea that would have required many photos that I did not have in my own archives.

So I turned to which is a great, inexpensive source of photographs and illustrations. You can purchase credits and then use those credits to purchase artwork or photographs that can be used when designing marketing materials. (Some work is available, at a higher price, to place on products to resell.)

I was reluctant to use stock photos for all the obvious reasons, so I soon turned my focus to Christmas illustrations and found some that I loved and that fit in well with one of my ideas. I opened up the downloaded document (which contained 13 major icons plus a flurry of snowflakes) in Illustrator. This allowed me to make some color adjustments, pull out the desired Christmas icons, or alter parts of the icons to suit my purpose.

Since I’m more fluent in Photoshop than Illustrator and could easily send a Photoshop file to my destination printer, I opted to create the entire card in Photoshop, although I could have created it in InDesign or Quark and then placed the artwork into the layout.

My first step in Photoshop was to create a nice blue background based on my PMS color (reflex blue) for the front and back of the card. Back in Illustrator, I changed the color of the snowflakes from a pale green to a light blue and then placed them into my Photoshop document on several layers, resizing some of the original flakes to fill in.

Turning my focus to the back of the card, (bottom half shown above) I pulled in the North Pole icon onto a new layer. On subsequent layers, which I then placed behind the North Pole layer, I created a few snowbanks with the Pen tool, using the gradient tool to add some shading to the snow banks. I made sure to leave the card mostly white towards the left and bottom and added my logo and information there so it would stand out best.

I reversed the colors on the inside of the card, leaving it mostly white with some blue accents. The red and green colors of the icons set against the blue and white backgrounds gave the card contrast and punch.The process of designing the entire card took some time, but I had a lot of fun putting this together. And this Christmas, I plan to take more pictures so I have my own, more varied stock of Holiday photos for next year should I choose to use a photo or two on a card!

creating a series of flyers

I recently completed a set of three brochures for Notification Delivery Network (NDN). The service allows emergency teams, schools, and businesses to communicate quickly with many people via voice, e-mail, text, and SMS.

Initially, each flyer was to share the same layout but utilize different color combinations to differentiate them from each other. For example, school bus yellow and red for schools, red and blue for crisis management, and a medium shade of green and red for businesses.

Since the flyers are targeted to different audiences and are unlikely to be presented to the same group, the color scheme was changed in keeping with NDN’s company colors.

The text on the left hand side of each flyer gives some information on the scenarios associated with each target audience and the advantages of having NDN in place, and the sidebars highlight the important features most relative to that target audience. Photos were purchased from

school flyer crisis flyer business flyer

golf tournament marketing

fore the girls

Now that the weather’s warming up (for the moment anyway), I thought I’d share some material done during the winter months in preparation for a golf tournament this coming June.

golf girl
A redesign of a school golf tournament, Fore the Girls! was called for. The look that was sought was more of a “fun” look and there was a call for four color. My goal was to add these elements without detracting too much from the initial brand that golfers had become familiar with over the previous eight years.

The initial logo also featured a girl golfer and to fit the scheme, I colorized the original black and white line art. The girl was later rejected, but I colorized stock black and white artwork to create colorful tees, bags, and tufts of grass. A funky Tekton font also added to a more fun feel to the material.
brochure frontbrochure back

Shown above are both sides of the letter fold brochure.

Shown at right is the letterhead.

This was a small, fun job for a good cause. It was a great opportunity to do design work that gave me breathing room from writing projects and more demanding design projects, and a nice chance to create a comprehensive look and carry that over various marketing materials.

identity materials

For those of you who’ve had the pleasure — or pain — of being my marketing guinea pigs, thank you for your viewpoints and perspective on my evolving design. It gave me much to reflect on and was a great help.

In designing identity materials, the goal is to create a look, a recognizable brand, that you can carry consistently through your marketing materials. While a product (business cards, letterhead, etc.) is the end goal, I believe the process of creating that look can be one through which you ultimately learn more about yourself and your business. In addition to sharing my new materials, I thought I would share the process.

Although I experimented with more drastic design and color changes, in the end I made a few minor changes that made a noticeable difference.
business card before business card after

First, the name. Conventional advice would have me use my name rather than a name like Scrivo. I wrestled with this the first time, when I chose Scrivo! Graphic Design & Writing Services. Scrivo was initially chosen as a nod to my Italian heritage, a unique opener to describe what I do, and to highlight the fact that I wrote copy as well as designed. It felt right to me then, and it still feels right to me, and many of you, now.

My initial focus was on writing and graphic design, but that no longer encompass all I do, so I changed the “design & writing” to design, photography, and writing.

Arguments can be made for and against the choice of the color blue. After playing with other colors,I came back to blue but decided to replace the black. In developing this site, I had chosen a warm gray to offset the blue. I liked the look. For the cards a cooler gray, which worked better, was chosen.

As for fonts, my initial use of Simoncini Garamond and Lucida Casual was meant to convey an idea of practicality and fun. Classic yet sporty. Since I’ve more or less hung up my Chuck Taylors, I opted to replace the Lucida, and looked for a non-serif font which I felt was clean, reserved, and modern. After trying some more unique fonts, I chose a standby, Helvetica.

In my first revisions, the “ink blots” came out. I tried lines. I moved sections around in the layout. People missed the “blots” and I missed them too, so for now, the blots remain, but smaller.

The idea of replacing the exclamation point of Scrivo with a scan of a quill pen occurred to me, and I worked on several variations of the scan, manipulated in Photoshop. I tried a more edgy quill, designed in Illustrator. Lots of fun, but they both took more from the name than they added to it, a feeling also expressed by some of my marketing “team.”

business card frontbusiness card back
The addition of a second side was a must. The cost of adding a second side is minimal and it provides more information for potential clients. A second card was created to hand out at photography events, and the back has space to add the website to which an event’s pictures are posted.

Another change was the card stock. I was tired of the gray granite look and wanted the blue to pop and the gray to be more prominent. So white was the best choice. Other minor changes to the letterhead and the envelope were made.

The tag line posed the most difficulty, and I tried out many before deciding on this one, and I chose to place it on the back of the card but featured it more prominently on the letterhead, envelope, and web site.

“Portraying your spirit and vision in business and life” comes the closest to what I try to do. I believe it is important, in business and in life, to be true to yourself. My goal, through design, is to reflect the mission and vision of your business in a beneficial way unique to you.