Printed Matter

Printed Matter.

Located in the heart of New York’s Chelsea neighborhood is a delightful little stop for fans of all sorts of publication design, Printed Matter. As a not for profit bookstore specializing in art books, zines, counterculture ephemera and events such as publication exhibitions, Printed Matter provides a unique look at the boundaries of untraditional publications.

The outside of the store is unapologetic and bold, a large critique on President-Elect Donald Trump hangs prominently against the backdrop of stacks and tables of books.(For those interested, it coincidentally happens to be one of the featured free posters of the month) The hard to find doorway, blended into the chaos of the storefront if you enter at night, invites you into a small entryway decked out in promotional flyers for upcoming exhibitions, naked yoga sessions, support groups, and revolution workshops. If you can picture the Feminist bookstore from Portlandia, you can picture Printed Matter and dozens of similar stores across the city.

One of the most interesting parts of the store is its comprehensive selection of zines. Zines are urgent, low-tech, and personal publications made by designers, artists, writers and more to express concepts and releases it in an accessible way without worrying so much about large budgets, distribution channels or formalities. These publications are bare bones urgent messages packed together in creatively designed and carefully economical solutions. There are many zines to chose from, with topics ranging from Feminism, New York, a celebration of low-riders and even a series of poems to

Stacks and Stacks of books followed by tables upon tables of books line the store. It’s not a traditionally cozy environment though, instead, the store feels chic and spare, like a reclaimed warehouse. Concrete floors, white walls and industrial elements alongside airy lofts create an elegant sort of appeal to the store where the natural colors of the books come alive.

The design of the books are perhaps the most interesting part of the adventure that is Printed Matter. Books and other artifacts in this store are among some of the most celebrated and in style artist books, design books, counter culture books, magazines, and experimental publications. For a typographer, there’s endless inspiration to be had from glancing at the pages of the various books, with some ranging from classical and elegant to avant garde and unreadable. For a designer, judging a book by its cover becomes valid as an exercise in exploring often ridiculous publications riddled with esoteric themes.

The appreciation of these publications extends to also include a general influence that they can have on a designer. The design is risky, it’s unapologetically firing shots everywhere and wanting to create an unmistakable response from its audience. To summarize, you won’t find any of these publications at your local Barnes and Noble. After looking at these publications, you are influenced. Whether you are inspired to take action, excited to rethink the conventional rules of design, or even disgusted or shocked at the contents within, you aren’t going to visit Printed Matter and leave without an impression.

Adjunct to the main store is a small design gallery of publications elegantly presented in a simple white glass case with typography set on the wall. The space is small and narrow, brightly lit and seemingly both elegant yet low-tech. There is an appreciation to the exhibition of publications in the gallery which you would encounter in larger-scale design galleries and exhibitions which lend yet another delightful quirk to the space.

For designers, the store is a treat; for members of subcultures, the store is an oasis of expression; for an average passerby, the store is a glimpse into a world fueled by creativity, rebellion and a desire to fuel a greater good. For all purposes, a trip to Printed Matter is recommended, if even to just chuckle at the placement of raunchy and explicitly adult literature next to glossy Kenzo magazines in limited edition cases.

 

Branding in an Agency setting

Branding in an Agency setting

 

What is it like working on a rebranding process in a professional agency setting? Well, it can be daunting and have numerous aspects such as focus groups, internal board reviews, etc., but that’s a story for another time. Instead, I wish to talk about the more exciting, more fun, more light-hearted rebranding process I worked on in a professional agency this summer, the rebranding for a children’s clinic.

Most importantly, when approaching this topic, I think it is fascinating to notice how much of a big deal process is. When I’m in class, I notice that I rush through projects a lot, and if anything I get extremely annoyed at the tedious act that is documenting process. In fact, I’m probably notorious for this, I always get in a grove of playing music and doing a million things that I get completely lost in the process and never make time to properly document things. It may also be due to the frequency of projects in the classroom in combination with other homework assignments that I just can not nail down process in class. It’s not to say it’s a bad thing, once put into an agency setting where you have a 9-5 to dedicate on projects time seems to be stretched much more differently.

What I learned in my internship is that process is king in figuring everything out. And process is multi-faceted. Everything from concepts, to ideations, to thought bubbles in a chat box, to clean file management. All these things and more are beneficial to a successful work environment.

The second day of work I had a brief demonstration by the head of production over the file management system of the agency I work at and to this day I believe that the brief demonstration has fundamentally changed the way I approach all other projects in school and work simply because of how beneficial it truly was to learn about the process of production in file management.

This story is not about any of the above though, and as I mentioned before, it is the story of a childcare logo…

It was a blisteringly hot mid-summer day, I was minding my own business munching on company provided snackage and slacking away at coworkers when a new email came in from a creative director I had not had the chance to work with alongside an art director a junior designer and a senior designer. Big disclaimer, when you’re in the agency setting, you’re not the only one on a project, and infact, this allows you to get some really interesting work to be created even if you ultimately don’t get your work chosen.

The Brief of the project:  A local children’s clinic was going through a rebrand process and had previously gone with a different firm to view a few options. The process had gotten fairly far in the other firm and final identity options had been presented to the client. The client was not impressed with these options and instead had contacted our agency for a second option, knowing they would get a more research-driven, strategic option.

The new identity for this clinic, that had various locations throughout the city, had to face primarily focus on facing professionals in the healthcare industry, potential employees and parents. A secondary focus was children, the identity had to be child-friendly.

The creative director then stepped out after a few more points of discussion and let our art director become our main point of contact. This was where the fun part came in.

The identities that were developed by the previous firm were uninspiring, dull, and extremely corporate. There was little done in the way of research to look for something unique and in the end there were stale things about the identities. Our art director immediately said, ok everyone, let’s not do this. So let’s get rid of these. Let’s make some fun things. Let’s break.

Mind mapping is one of the most interesting activities that one can do in the initial process. During the first day or so of being on this account, I just mind mapped everything I could. I thought- ok children, how about animals, rockets, the colors of crayons, etc., health, ok stethoscopes, blues, hearts etc., In total I ended up with around two pages of words that related to each other and mindless amounts of ideas. In the end I started coming back to things like animals, origami, balloons, and pinwheels; eliminating the dinosaurs, rocket ships and candy options all together.

After this came research to what other people were doing. This was fascinating to see different childcare logos and hospital logos and signage systems for healthcare and more. During this stage I had probably one too many tabs open of inspiration all over.

Later in the first week we had an initial regrouping of what our research found. Despite a generally similar topic, all three of us came in with completely different things to show. One of the designers had been in love with the Children’s Museum logo he had found and the color interaction and the ways the system could work together; the other designer was interested in wonky typography and meanwhile I was infatuated with the origami aesthetic. There was in particular a cihldren’s hospital in London that had done some brilliant work with origami as a system.

In the meeting we were told to follow our gut feelings, follow the children’s museum, follow the origami, follow the fun type, make really cool identity systems that could become potential icons.

On my end of things, I began to play around with origami animals for days, I sketched bears and cubs, I sketched ideas of bears becoming hearts, I played with elephants, elephants holding balloons, elephants holding pinwheels, in the end I amassed a collection of hundreds of sketches of different things and finalized logo concepts of three ideas. The other two designers had looked at pinwheels and dandelions and stethoscopes and giraffes and blocks, it was truly a kid’s wonderland of items.

I think when you’re on the right team you know it simply with how everyone interacts. The team for this project was one that was a pleasure to work with in every step of the way. While we would have meetings every two or so weeks, the in between time was filled with constant check ins and this allowed all of us to stay motivated to refine our projects even more. I think looking back at my working file, I had at least twenty iterations of the same elephant with different curves, different things she was holding and more. At the end of this process we even became attached to the character to even calling her Ella the Elephant.

The fun and games lasted for about a month, during this time we each cranked out three iterations that we could have presented to the client. Coming into our presentation meeting confident and excited to see how to move forward, we were met with a curveball. The client wanted something more corporate. The approaches we were going with, while interesting, were perhaps too happy and playful.

             

This second stage of the design process meant that we had to look at our more successful iterations, keep some as they were and edit other concepts to become more corporate. Defining “Corporate” meant that it would be an aesthetic that would be better catered to those in the professional healthcare industry than anything else. This was a party-pooper stage, having to look at angular typefaces, reduced color pallets and more, but in the end it opened up interesting doors.

Going with a corporate approach meant that suddenly the idea of a pinwheel that had been prominent in a lot of our designs could suddenly become a corporate pattern across different material. It was in the corporate stage that I developed a series of pinwheel identities that communicated childhood, friendliness and approachability while still leaning more on the side of caution.

When approaching this identity, it meant more to imagine how it could live on in the space it would be displayed, how it could live on in the communications throughout the clinic, and how it could suddenly become a part of the greater brand that was previously never there before. There were fun considerations to consider, how would this play along with the architecture and with scrubs, would the pinwheels start making shapes across the waiting rooms, would the colors suddenly be applied on furniture?

During this final stage that ended up lasting around another three weeks, there came another idea after a casual day of the art director strolling by. What if the elephant that we had fallen in love with before, could take on a new role within a corporate identity?

The already existing elephant had her holding a pinwheel, with a rounded typeface next to her and a small shadow underneath. The suggestion was to make a dual identity with a pinwheel solo identity that would face professionals in healthcare, parents in billing and others and the pinwheel with elephant would face children in waiting rooms, scrubs and other similar instances. This dual-identity system was born, and with it the direness of making something entirely corporate was eliminated.

No matter how old you get, you really can be a little kid at heart at all times, and part of what made a project like this so lovely was that from research to process to final executions, there was a strong playful energy throughout that helped keep the culture of the team alive and more willing to push each other to create refined solutions, even though our solutions were overly playful and intentionally rough.

This laid back attitude even resulted in an ultra casual final presentation This was an interesting process and in the end the final selection was a pinwheel and cube concept, a dandelion concept, the pinwheel identity I had come up with during the corporate phase, and, the favorite among the group, the elephant dual-purpose identity.

Fast forward a few months later and I received the most wonderful email from the creative director, the client had bought the elephant with pinwheel concept alongside the standard pinwheel concept. It was at this moment that I learned that being an intern at this agency was just another part of the team, and that my work would actually live on. It was also at this point that I learned a good lesson in properly packaging extensive files for clients and communicating with them afterwards.

What I learned in this whole process was that, a logo can not and should not just take a day to make with no thought behind it. Collectively for this, relatively small project, all three designers and the art director labored for hundreds of hours developing identity systems that were well thought out, researched, sketched, tinkered with, all to create an identity that would be resonate among both professionals in healthcare, potential employees, parents and even, children.

 

The Stages of a Project

The Stages of a Project

It’s no secret that studio projects within Graphic Design courses can start to take on a life of their own after a while. Perhaps one of the great things is realizing afterwards that every single project seems to have the same stages…

 

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Initial Brief

Ah, the first day of getting a project, there’s nothing quite like it. You feel super confident and ready to tackle on the world with an innovative, never-before-scene, portfolio show stopping piece that is going to be done in a timely and efficient fashion. Your mind flutters with ideas and your behance game is strong as you leave the studio.

 

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Let’s get it together

Ok now that you’ve had a few days to think about this project you come in ready to share amazing bits of inspiration. You feel like you’ve slayed the world when your idea gets approved and you start getting notes and sketches into your notebook. Gasp, you even start making a production schedule, look at you go!

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Put your headphones on, do some light research to further develop your ideas, heck get feedback and share ideas in classes, this is going along pretty smoothly, you even have a few weeks left on this project, heck you might just take a small break from this…

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Treat Yo Self

You’ve worked hard enough, your production schedule is looking really good, heck, treat yo self. Go binge watch a show, work on other projects instead, take a mini vacation to Bora Bora, the sky is the limit for you!

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Wait, this is due soon?

Oh crap, you say to yourself as you realize you haven’t done any process recording, you’re behind by a week on your schedule, you’ve started dedicating more time into other classes and seem to have forgotten what you were doing on this, well it might not be as ground-breaking, but it will still get done right?

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Plot Twist

Never before have you had such a gigantic plot twist as the initial critique shows you still have a long way to go and you realize you have a few days left to turn everything around, ok, take deep breaths. You know that as long as you spend a good amount of time dedicated to this project in the following days, send everything to print early and email your professor for last minute feedback, you’ll be perfectly fine.

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Well…

Crap there’s a new season of the show you love on Netflix, it’s dollar beer night at the local pub, and you seem to have forgotten you also have a midterm to study for, a social event you clicked ‘Interested’ in on facebook, and an upcoming existential life crisis, how ever will you fit in time to finish this?

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The Day Before 

Oh crap, you’ve done it again. You need to finish up the entire project, document it, document the process, write a thesis statement, print it, and

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I woke up like this

Well there you are, at 8 in the morning waiting impatiently in the print shop. You look a mess and forgot to brush your teeth, you’re surviving off pizza leftovers and black coffee, you probably went temporarily blind at one point looking at your screen and you just realized that the person in front of you in the print shop just broke the last remaining printer. As you start to contemplate dropping out and joining the circus you quickly snap out of it and realize that you’re in the company of twenty other stressed out, panicking, last-minute procrastinators and, just like your high school musical fantasies during middle school, you’re all in this together!

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Slay

Critique has come, you can either talk about the lack of time, or you can come in like Beyoncé dropping Lemonade and flawlessly dominate the critique. Judging by the coffee stain on your shirt and your extremely warped last minute print… we’ll just pretend it’s the latter option and take a good long nap afterwards.

Design and Prototype with ease


For too long designing and prototyping user interfaces seemed to be either an exercise in using native software with a slightly steep learning curve like Sketch, or to tediously spend time building mockups in Illustrator and Photoshop to then either import the assets into online software like. Fortunately for us, there is Adobe Experience Design.

Adobe Experience Design is the still in development native desktop software that specializes in making your workflow for prototyping websites and mobile apps a breeze. When one opens up the application it feels incredibly familiar yet remarkably enough, every single software feature has been built entirely to best suit how users interact with the application. It is a remarkable and intuitive Adobe experience from the ground up and one that leaves any user able to create working prototypes within minutes.

One of the key features of Adobe Experience Design that sets it apart and limits development time is the inclusion of existing UI Kits that seamlessly blend your design ideas with existing UI elements found in Apple, Google, and Microsoft platforms. This becomes incredibly time-saving if you are in the midst of imagining how a mobile application may look and feel across various devices or if you need to best understand how to translate a desktop element to its corresponding mobile element.

Prototyping websites is a breeze with the ability to create clickable areas around the software that will lead you into your next page with smooth transitions. You can build incredibly rich web and mobile experiences in this application and instantaneously view them in both a faux web browser and on your mobile device with installed software. Those familiar with tools like Sketch and ___ will feel at home when wire framing the way a prototype will function. Selecting Point A to a Point B is all you need to create a quick action.

Workflow in the application is something that with each build gets more intuitive. New features to the software include a familiar layers panel and the ability to create your own custom symbols for use across your project.

If you are developing your site and wish to see it across various size points and devices the artboard tool takes on a life of its own as an extremely intuitive way to build different experiences with a simple click.

Many bits of functionality that you would expect in more sophisticated software such as Sketch or in creating your own mockups in Photoshop and Illustrator are still not entirely incorporated and may not be for a few more builds. For the most part, Adobe Experience Design gets the job done if you have prebuilt resources, creativity in how to flex the muscle of existing tools, or are more concerned about creating an experience that is not too graphically heavy.

Drawbacks to the software also include how young it is. If you are working with a programmer or developer, applications like Sketch still reign supreme. It’s not entirely a bad idea to learn both pieces of software to expand your toolset, with knowledge that Experience Design is still very new. This particular issue arrises in instances where, for instance, Experience Design still lacks a proper grid system and translating measurements between designers and developers can still be a hassle.

It should also be noted that, another incredibly useful feature of Experience Design is the functionality it has in becoming a presentation deck builder. Indesign, Keynote and Powerpoint are typically the applications that come to mind for building presentations, but with incredibly flexible and elegant tools and intuitive prototyping, Experience Design could very well be how you build your next presentation.

Adobe Experience Design is available for free to those with an Adobe Creative Cloud membership and is currently in Beta mode.