Camelia’s Cupcakes Logo

Posted 11 February 2011 at 5:56 AM | Comments (6)

Talented cupcake maker, Camelia, was finally persuaded by family and friends to turn her hobby into a business and bring American-style cupcakes to Stockholm, Sweden. She contacted me a few months ago to ask if I’d design her logo. (Um, she had me at cupcake.)

Through e-mails and Skype calls, we discussed her vision for her brand. Camelia already had an impressive list of descriptors—her brand should be feminine, upscale, and elegant. The logo should incorporate pink, swirls, and back-to-back C’s. You’d think that, with so much information, I wouldn’t have anything left to do, but even with those kinds of parameters the possibilities are endless.

This is what just a couple hours of conceptualizing looks like:

Camelia's Cupcakes Logo, Initial Sketches

Camelia chose her favorite pretty quickly, and we’ve been developing it since.

Camelia's Cupcakes Logo, Final

It’s fun to be involved from the beginning when someone is launching their business. Though we have much left to do, I can already sense that great things are going to happen for this girl, and I can’t wait to see it.

And eat it.

My S’bux

Posted 17 January 2011 at 10:43 PM | Comments (5)

I haven’t rushed to comment on the new Starbucks logo because—unlike other recent logo disasters—I’m not fervidly opposed to it. Even though there are reasons I prefer the old logo, Starbucks did everything right when revising it:

They kept it recognizable.
They didn’t throw away their brand equity, which took years to build.
And, though this is subjective, they’ve given their customers a smart—and almost inspiring—explanation for the changeover.

I don’t even mind that they eliminated the “Starbucks Coffee” text, because it makes sense considering that they’re increasingly moving toward new countries and new product. It demonstrates that their mermaid symbol is strong enough to stand on its own. It may even demonstrate that their company is fearlessly progressing with the times.

So why do I prefer the old logo? It’s simple, really (and perhaps unsophisticated of me):

I like my coffee to have a heritage. I want to know that it has been around a while. I want it to be warm and authentic. I want someone to have made it with care. I don’t want it to be cool and modern. My electronics, my appliances, my car—they can be cool and modern. Not my coffee.

So while the new Starbucks logo is well-designed and well thought out, on a cup it looks like it holds coffee from a fancy thermos and came from a fancy gas station. I like the old “stamp,” which looks like it holds coffee from my local, loved coffeeshop that has been around for ages. It doesn’t matter that it didn’t actually come from my local coffeeshop. It made me feel like it did.


Posted 20 November 2010 at 11:20 PM | Comments (5)

I really like Gwyneth Paltrow. She’s talented and smart. And she’s classy, not just as far as celebrities go, but as far as people go. I’ve seen her movies, liked her in the last episode of Glee, and subscribe to her GOOP newsletter.

That’s why I feel bad saying that I’m not a fan of her branding.

I’m always talking about relevance. Not everything always has to make sense—ever seen a Salvador Dali film?—but when you’re building a brand, relevance becomes extremely important. For example, let’s say Phil’s Burgers has the slogan: “They’re smoking hot!” The slogan is so unrelated to the name that it might as well belong to any generic burger bar.

They’re smoking hot!

But let’s say we change the name to:

Our burgers are smokin’!

Or even:

Smokin’ hot!

Suddenly the slogan no longer sounds like a bizarre afterthought. Both it and the restaurant name are relevant; they mean something; they’re practically made for each other. And whether or not we realize it at the moment, Phil’s burger bar suddenly sounds a whole lot smarter.

Okay, back to Gwyneth Paltrow and her admirable (though highly criticized) creative undertaking, GOOP. I’m aware that “goop” is flanked by her initials, GP. But the Os seem to have little relevance here. Why not GLOOP? Or GLOP? Or GIMP? (Don’t answer that.) At one point there was some kind of statement on her website, but I can’t find it now. It was something like, “Life and all the goop in between.” Whatever it was, I had no idea what it meant, and it just sounded hokey and arbitrary. And GOOP’s slogan—“nourish the inner aspect”—didn’t clarify anything, either. Anything.

by Gwyneth Paltrow

If I was Gwyneth, I’d think about what those Os could mean. Here’s an example:

out in the open
with Gwyneth Paltrow

Which is perhaps not the most brilliant solution, but it elevates the name to something more than a hokey word. Not only does “goop” become more relevant, but it gives us new information—that this is Gwyneth Paltrow, personal, honest, and out and about. It practically becomes a mission statement.

Okay, the second thing bothering me about her branding is the design itself. It’s clean—that I like. Otherwise, it’s uninteresting, somewhat expected, and worst of all, feels like it came straight out of the 90s. (I swear that my first paid design project looked exactly like this.) Maybe she started mapping out this idea in 1997 and never revisited it? Anyway, with the resources she has, I’m sure she could hire a graphic designer to bring her website into 2010 and beyond. If I try to get more specific, it could take me all day, so I’ll leave it at that.

But I’m not a hater. I admire Gwyneth for wanting to share her perspective (even if I can’t always relate to it).

Wanting to share her perspective. Huh, I guess that’s what I’m doing with this blog. Or pretending to do. Anyway, my point is, I can’t judge, because I absolutely understand her intent. It’s the execution that needs some work.


Posted 9 October 2010 at 12:07 PM | Comments (0)

My friend, Leila (pronounced “Lee-la”), is one of those super-moms who, just by breathing, makes me feel insecure about my parenting skills. She’s also one of the sweetest people I’ve ever met, so I can’t make a case that she’s trying to be amazing just so the rest of us frazzled moms feel like crap. Darn!

Did that make you laugh? Because I honestly just laughed out loud at myself.

Anyway, Leila is also an avid sewer, and makes clothing and other items for women and children from upcycled materials. She asked me to make a banner for her Etsy store and Facebook page, and with this first draft I was going for two mice (since she has two children) and an earthy, recycled look to reflect her philosophy.

Tinymouse Designs Web Banners

Looking back at this now, there’s so much more I’d like to do with it. I’d love to incorporate fabric, or stitching, and come up with a more graphic (rather than photographic) symbol that she can use on product tags. Now that she has moved her business to Indianapolis, we may just have to go back to the drawing board. Literally!

Don’t Mind the Gap

Posted 8 October 2010 at 11:59 PM | Comments (8)

It’s hard to believe that the same people who are behind the super-strong brand identities of Banana Republic and Old Navy are making such bad decisions for Gap. One, they scrapped a logo that was fine to begin with—it was clean, well-proportioned, and, perhaps most importantly, recognizable. Two, they replaced that logo with one that is not only badly designed but generic—a thousand other companies probably have a similar logo, and most of those companies probably repair computers, pack boxes or, who knows, push thumbtacks. Three, they immediately put that badly designed logo in effect and then asked consumers for their design ideas. Four, they… well, I’m not sure what four is, but considering the decisions they’ve made thus far, chances are, it’s coming.

I’ve always been loyal to Gap. But their flaky decision-making on something as critical as brand identity makes me question their entire business model. Yesterday, following the intense consumer backlash, the company stated that they’re “thrilled to see passionate debates unfolding,” but if they knew how incompetent this makes them look, I don’t think they’d be so thrilled.

Brand identity is not just about design. It starts with a design, and that design says something about who you are and distinguishes you from others, but as you build relationships the design becomes you. It’s how people recognize you. Over time, it’s why they trust you.

Dear Gap,

I bought a pair of your jeans and then cut, hemmed, and restyled them. My friends say they’re hideous now and were much more attractive before. Can I return them for a full refund?


Ok… Go

Posted 3 August 2010 at 12:28 AM | Comments (2)

The smart, quirky, rock band—that made one of the most delightful music videos ever—recently held a logo-design contest for their new USB drive. I submitted two entries, both of which are highly unlikely to win, but what’s great about design contests is that, since I haven’t invested in an outcome, I allow myself to experiment and let go.

The ideas I generate during this kind of exercise don’t go to waste, either. There’s a good chance I’ll go back to these concepts for a future project, because they each have a little something-something that can be utilized again, whether it’s a color scheme, typeface, or technique.

USB-Drive Logo Design Contest for OK Go

Restoration, Illustration

Posted 28 July 2010 at 1:08 PM | Comments (7)

I recently entered a logo-design contest for a new company in North Carolina that guides restoration of natural ecosystems and historic homes. Most of the other entries were flat, simple, abstracted—and many of them quite good. I didn’t think it made sense to give the company another abstracted option when they had so many good ones to choose from already, so instead I went a different route and designed a more detailed, illustrative logo.

When you know nothing about your client, it’s impossible to know what they’re looking for, but I was excited to give them an illustrated option that felt like a smart cross between traditional and modern—hello, “restoration!”—and perhaps even stand out in a sea of two-color logos.

Illustrated Logo for a Restoration Company