Med City FC
Didn't see this coming.
Friend and colleague Frank Spaith just became the GM of a new semi-pro soccer franchise with the NPSL almost overnight. So then I get an email from Frank, that says something like... "Jeff, someone did a logo but I thought I should contact you cuz it needs a little help," He was right. It was astonishingly underwhelming, especially for the vision I knew Frank would have for the team and the level of play within the league. I told him not to worry and that I'd take care of it. A few emails and samples back and forth and boom we had something everyone could get behind. This will be a ton of fun to follow and watch (help) grow. More to come.
Branding and More
GoRout is a new tech startup here in Rochester that is the first of its kind. GoRout has developed a heads up display that fits inside a football helmet to be used during practice. The idea is that the coaches can direct the players to reset for the next play more quickly as well as gather real-time stats and point-of-view footage. It doesn't end there. The system is voice activated by the player and is seamlessly transmitted over GoRout Air without the need for any WiFi network. What does all this mean for football? It means that plays can be executed and reset in practice with greater efficiency. It means coaches can spend more time coaching and less time at a computer. It means four times more plays can be run in the same amount of practice time. And all of this leads to more wins.
The company is growing fast, with teams already using the wearable forearm version and production of the HUD version underway. So with all the urgency, GoRout's founder, Mike Rolih needed some brand work done fast.
Not all of the offerings lent themselves to clever icons, however, which created a bit of challenge. The first was GoRout Air which came quickly as I thought about the three bars of wireless reception and no need for WiFi with their products. Because GoRout Steel is the operating platform, I went with a digital feel that I had already been incorporating into some of the other materials. Mike really liked it. However as much as we tried, the other two just seemed forced when we introduced symbols of eyes, screens, and so forth. In the end, we went with two-tone color type treatments and then added the sub-brand identifier "from GoRout" which set them apart nicely. That way the software offerings and the hardware offerings each took on a slightly different look.
Mike is a great client to work with. He offers immediate and decisive direction which is very welcome indeed. Not only that but it turns out Mike's got some crazy design skills (who knew?) which he applies to his website and image creation from time to time. I'm hoping to stay close to the GoRout team as they break out and make it big.
Starting from Zero
This branding project included a great deal of back and forth with the shop owner, Kristie Moore, to select a name as well as a primary logo concept. Many names were exchanged before the name, Soul Purpose, was settled upon.
The owner has a vision for a shop that offers artisans and artists an outlet for their handcrafted products. Mittens and scarves from South America, upcycled cast-offs from local creators along with locally sourced jams and jellies are just a hint of what you will find in this wonderfully creative boutique.
My role (starting with the name) was to come alongside the owner and help envision a brand that would express her vision of freedom, creativity, and conscientious consumerism
Natural elements that embodied freedom and nature were top of mind when considering themes and motifs. A detailed line art dragonfly headed the list for some time until the ubiquitous dandelion gone to seed drifted to the top.
We both appreciated the fact that the normally despised yet charming midwest weed was being transformed into elegant, larger than life, art (The dandelions on the shop windows are about seven feet tall).
It's not immediately evident in the design but if you look closely, the furthest seed being blown by the summer breeze is colored differently symbolizing the owner's goal of spreading the message that newer, bigger, and better are seldom as satisfying to the soul as artistically repurposed, smaller, and reimagined.
I am very pleased with the outcome. Blending meaning and design is a very rewarding challenge.
Alt Design #2
I've been working on an awesome branding project for a local ranch and conference facility 20 miles southwest of Rochester called Ironwood Springs Christian Ranch. When I was first contacted by Operations Manager, Tracy Bashore to talk about the project, I had no idea how vast its facilities, offerings, and rich history were. Ironwood Springs was started in 1976 by Bob Barwell who had been permanently injured in an industrial accident and left wheelchair bound as a result. It seems the potential limitation only spurred Bob to serve others more tirelessly and to share God's love with as many people as possible by creating an amazing property dedicated to the service and enrichment of others. Bob remains the head cheerleader of Ironwood Springs but knows that someday he will have to hand over the helm of this incredible enterprise. From National wheelchair athletic camps to Military family support weekends to adaptive camps of all types, Ironwood Springs Christian Ranch fills a much-needed void for those with any type of handicap.
You can tell that I have been impressed and moved by the people, work, and scope of Ironwood Springs. It makes my job even more rewarding knowing about the great work they are quietly doing every day in this part of our state.
Spirit of Rochester
City Identity Project
Earlier this year while I was doing work for Destination Medical Center, I was struck by the data that told of how many patients and visitors come to Rochester every year. Over 1.2 Million. I also thought about how DMC is trying to elevate the experience of Rochester (physically and in essence) in an effort to tie the city into the experience of Mayo Clinic. As a designer, I thought, “I don’t remember seeing any design, mark or branding for Rochester Minnesota”. I proceeded to checkout all of the retail outlets downtown and found only cheap kitsch and even then, not much of that.
Then I thought, what if someone created an elegant, signature mark for the city of Rochester? Not Rah Rah Rochester, not The city logo which is horribly outdated (not to mention exactly what you would expect of a small Midwestern city). What if this new mark had broad appeal? What if it could be translated into a huge variety of quality products (or services) and made available to the many visitors and residents of Rochester? What if I designed that mark? So, I gave it a shot.
After many hours on my iMac, many critiques and dozens of trial applications on everything from sweatshirts to thumb drives, I settled on a design that I felt landed in the zone where the city and Mayo could meet. As I designed, I knew I wanted a mark that would have a shelf life, a mark that captured just enough, but not too many attributes of this great city. I wanted a mark that would stand proudly with any other entity and even compliment them.
I now have a temporary agreement with the Shops at Gonda in the Mayo Clinic subway to pilot some of the aforementioned products and to get feedback from visitors. It’s exciting and scary at the same time. When I was younger I used to stuff my artwork under my bed. I practically convulsed at the thought of someone seeing my work. Slowly, ever so slowly, and over many years, I began to allow others to see what I hoped (but didn’t know) was good art. While I’ve come a long way since I was nine, I still get that feeling of doubt. But if I have learned anything in my creative career, it's that sometimes you just gotta put it out there and see what happens.
Not your grandma's yarn shop.
Saying Hank and Purls is just a local yarn shop is a gross understatement. H&P Owner, Deb Zipse and Store Manager, Yolanda Fiek have tapped into a cluster of human-centered needs that they strive to meet by combing the creative process of fiber arts with their boundless energy, creativity, and friendly style.
Deb and Yolanda are developing several programs that go straight to the heart of what they are all about, namely, fiber arts and people. Through their desire to blend a love of fiber arts with acceptance of body style and positive self-image and by challenging skilled learners with a next-level journey into confidence-building complete garment creation, it's clear that H&P is not your grandma’s yarn shop.
In fact, this November, Deb, and Yolanda are planning to exhibit at the Vogue (yes, that Vogue) Knitting Live conference in Minneapolis, Minnesota where thousands of knitters, vendors, master instructors and fashion industry professionals will gather for 3 days of everything knitting.
H&P's depth of textile expertise and appreciation for products and processes goes far beyond the typical kitsch and craft one might associate with mere yarn and moves into the realm of art and meaning. But don’t get me wrong, Deb and Yolanda aren’t yarn snobs, not by a long shot. In fact, their store has become somewhat of the Dun Bros. of yarn where evening events, idea sharing, wine, laughter-filled classes and just hanging out have all become the norm.
My job then was to portray their unique collection of attributes and offerings in a cohesive brand that captured the spirit of this growing, more-than-just-a-yarn-shop enterprise. Their brand clearly has a strong fashion aspect that I used as my springboard. I wanted to create a look and feel that said fashion yet at the same time was approachable and friendly. I began with the thick-thin serif fonts that seem to roost atop most fashion magazine mastheads. I settled on Ratio Modern.
I reduced the store name (which I first thought were the names of two people) into initials in a way that let the beauty of the font shine through and added visual punch to the mark. The ampersand (my favorite character) worked to visually weave the monogram together. Gill Sans Light gave me a clean, light subhead while the beautiful hand-written look of Memoir (display type) completed my font lineup.
I enclosed the mark in a red rectangle which added excitement, allowed it to stand alone and gave me a vehicle to apply the mark just about anywhere including future product offerings. The red (F26857) was inspired by some of the high-end yarn hanks (no kidding, it’s called a hank) that I photographed in the store. From there it was just a matter of creating graphical elements that reflected the brand attributes of fashion, fibers, and friends.
Deb and Yolanda are crazy excited to roll out their new look at Vogue’s Knitting Live. I share their excitement and it's very rewarding.
Thanks for reading -
Hank and Purls
Yarn Shop Identity Project
Prairie Walls Climbing Gym
Prairie Walls Climbing Gym in Rochester, Minnesota was purchased in 2015 by adventure-loving local entrepreneur & businessman, Jay Maier. After 18 years of organic growth, unsung innovations and a kitchen table business model, Prairie Walls was ripe for a brand makeover and business strategy overhaul. Jay was ready for the challenge.
After our first meeting to talk about the rebranding project, it became clear that Jay welcomed my broader strategy input and creative business thinking as much as my design skills. Whoohoo! We started with conversations about what Prairie Walls was on its surface, under the hood, and what it could ultimately become.
We each saw the untapped potential and freed ourselves to think beyond Rochester and southern Minnesota. I remember agreeing that we needed to think on a national level even though we knew full well what the starting point was. At one point I invited Jay and two members of his leadership team to meet me at Planet Fitness. I chose that venue because I was so impressed with the extent and detail in their branding (their pens even write with purple ink). It’s not that I liked their logo, in fact, I believe it’s got big problems, rather, I wanted to highlight the great system that they created and had slavishly embedded in the customer experience environment.
For Prairie walls, I wanted to craft a system that conveyed friendliness and approachability to help potential customers overcome the emotional barriers they often have to be suspended by ropes high on a wall. I also wanted to generate a national feel with the sophistication that suggested authority and confidence on the subject of climbing.
I remember suggesting to Jay that we should play up (not down) the prairie aspect of their name. I liked the challenge (and contrast) of overcoming the image of flat and boring (prairie) with the excitement of scaling vertical surfaces indoors and out. We also agreed to drop the throwaway word “gym” from the name and allow the company name to end on the single most important aspect of the enterprise, climbing. In this way, we felt the name, Prairie Walls Climbing, had the scalability to include all-things-climbing whether for first responder rescue training or a portable climbing wall for birthday parties.
The inspiration for the colors came from the prairie itself. I have always loved the Great Plains and where others often see mile upon mile of nothingness, I see stunning beauty and variety. I looked at lots of photos of the prairie in early summer and chose colors based on what I saw. The gold and lilac are from the blooms of Black-Eyed-Suzan’s and prairie coneflowers that flood the hillsides in spring. While the deeper green and sage were natural compliments to the lilac and also created a strong base. In addition, the colors gave me great flexibility to suggest feminine, masculine and neutral combinations of colors for later use on apparel and accessories.
I suggested the hand of a tree frog for our signature mark. Turns out the tree frog is a great climber and abides in some form throughout most of north America. We ruminated on other climbing critters such as skinks, snakes, gecko and even squirrels but nothing had the same combination of attributes (friendliness and climbing) that we were after. We both loved the recognizably of the frog hand shape and ultimate flexibility that the image would give us for future endeavors. The frog body is actually meant to inform the viewer about the frog hand and will come and go depending on the application.
I could go on and on because there’s so much more to it all and it's very exciting to think about. But I will leave off for now. Thanks for reading. - Jeff