What Design Is

Design is a planned solution to a problem. Design communicates, it makes something useful. Design can organize and make sense out of large amounts of data. Design makes peoples lives better.

Good design makes the above even better. Rarely is there one solution to a problem that design can solve, it’s the skill and experience of the designer to determine which is the best for the conditions, the market place, the mission, the client and the audience.

Design is subjective. Like tastes. The measure of good design is the level at which it solves the problem.


Design Meets Creativity.

Remember design is a planned solution. It may involve a variety of materials, applications and processes. Creativity is the ability to create something from nothing and that something can greatly support the design.

Some would argue they don’t need or value design. Take a look at the everyday things you use. How you use them, your level of liking to use them are base on design. In contrast, when something doesn’t work well or quickly falls apart, it’s likely do to poor design.

Design is effective. It can motivate (move you to action or to buy something), it can inform (teach, keep you safe, educate). Design can provoke an emotional response. What ever the issue is, design is there to solve it.

Had Design Become a Commodity?

That would be tragic. Bringing design down to a single distinction, price, hurts everyone. It kills innovation and creative thinking. Design just is out there hustling for a buck. You know the old adage, you get what you pay for.

It has been a struggle for design to overcome the shadow of commodity status. To many still, the computer has literally turned everyone into “a designer.” I have a lovely kitchen full of excellent cooking and baking equipment, but it doesn’t make me Martha Stewart, nor does it make me a good chef. It takes talent, experience, good listening and communications skills to be a good designer. The computer is just a tool.

There are two camps of design. The cookie cutter, crowd sourced, contest, canned kind and then there is design that is backed by research, a mission, a desire for social change and social good. I prefer the latter camp. The work is tougher, more challenging, expensive, but oh, so worth it in terms of what design in this context can do for us and the world.

The Chicken and The Egg: Discoveries In Branding

The Chicken and the Egg; A Fresh Look as Branding and a Branding RefreshI’m excited to be a part of a Members’ 20X20 Showcase Discoveries in Branding for the upcoming MWMC Learning Lunch Event! In this mini-TedTalk format, myself and three other fabulously brand savvy women will present stories from their own professional branding experiences.

Granted the title of my presentation sounds completely disconnected to branding, but trust me there is a point to the whole chicken and egg analogy. I’ll be talking about why we need to brand taken from a historical perspective, what makes an iconic brand, the issue new brands and brands that chose to do re-fresh have when they first launch, wrapping it up with the MWMC story and their own branding re-fresh. Whew!

Here’s the Rest of the Line-up:

Where – Applying a personal re-branding strategy in a new job market – A Story (Shruti Acharya, Communications Consultant to General Mills) Shruti has amazing wit and an excellent story teller.

Why – Embracing Social Media to build a personal brand in a Paper World – A Solution (Kim Shannon, Account Executive, Neenah ) I’ve enjoyed Kim’s presentations through her Neenah paper coffee break gatherings and she is sure to delight.

How – Using branding to increase sales and customer recognition – A Case Study (Sarah Wangler, Sweet Marketing Success) I’m excited to meet Sarah. Her “how” should definitely
be inspiring!

If you happen to be in Minneapolis, join me in this Discoveries In Branding adventure. The event is being held January 23rd, from 11:30 am to 1:00 pm at the University of St. Thomas, Terrence Murphy Hall – Room 252. Early bird registration ends January 17th!

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Infographics: Data+Design Equals Creativity+Challenges

Who doesn’t love infographics? People love their pictures. They love their stories. Numbers, statistics, spreadsheets and data…not so much. Numbers and I have never gotten along, except in the typographic sense. (I love the number 3 and 5 set in certain typefaces). So when the business world began to embrace the infographic, it’s like wow, a whole new creative challenge for designers. It’s not just about pretty numbers, it’s about telling a compelling visual story supporting the facts and data in a compelling, if not entertaining way that engages people and make your boring figures down right fascinating.

Recently, I have been given an opportunity to stand up to the challenge and design two infographics for Minnesota Women in Marketing and Communications. Membership by the Numbers.

MWMW Members’ Survey InfographicMinnesota Women In Marketing and Communications Members Demographic Infographic

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Time for A Refresh: MWMC Gets A New Look

Since the Minneapolis Women in Marketing and Communications’ board retreat in July,
I have been working on answering the call of the organization — it’s time for a Branding Refresh! There are lots of moving parts to consider when refreshing a brand. For those of you new to branding communications, here’s my short list of those parts:

1. Visually convey the personality and values in a meaningful, memorable way that aligns with the organization’s vision and mission. Eyes glaze over whenever we hear about Mission/Visions in the corporate world, but we all need to focus, as individuals, as businesses and as non-profits. Having clearly written prose for both are tools to start either a dialogue between client and designer, if not a launching pad for brainstorming ideas for a branding refresh.

2. Pay attention to all the touch points the brand will be applied, from print, to website, to social channels, to e-newsletters, to signage, to trinkets, (i.e. SWAG) items.

3. Choose a color palette that matches the tone and style of the organization. In this case, bright and energetic wins out, but be sure the design is strong enough to carry the brand in black and white. It’s too painful an OPPS! should a “must-be-in-B&W” application show up and the opportunity for proper visual representation is missed.

4. How will the brand stand up in social channels, such as profile images and avatars? At 32 x 32 pixels square, the brand has to be super clean to stand strong at a small size. It’s best in early stages of brand development to test out a design and see how well it translates scaled down. Seasoned designers know this as the “postage stamp” test.

5. Horizontal verses Vertical. How is the brand orientated? Depending on the design, a brand might need to have both orientations to best adapt to all applications. For example, it’s a horizontal world online and a stacked vertical design might take up too much
“real estate” in a website and e-newsletter headers.

6. Typography. Just as important as the logo element of the brand, typography has personality and needs to align with what was outlined in Item 1. Also consider the merits of san serif verses serif faces — san serif faces might hold up better online and some serif faces may look dated. Consider faces that have extended family members — roman, (or regular), bold, italic, bold italic for more versatility and brand representation, especially in print. Like design, typography can be very subjective, but in the end, you want to have your logo + type look like a happy couple.

If you’re still with me, here’s a quick preview of MWMC’s branding refresh. I presented two different directions to the board:

Option One

Minnesota Women In Marketing and CommunicationsThis first option brings together the core characteristics of MWMC: Connecting, Collaborating, Communicating and Celebrating. Taking the “C” from characteristic forms an elegant emblem that embodies the essence of the MWMC brand. The downside is this look is a HUGE leap from the current logo and it might take a lot of work communicating the meaning behind this refresh. In doing the “postage stamp” test, Option One begins to lose hold at the small 32 x 32 pixel size.

Option Two:

Minnesota Women In Marketing and CommunicationsThis look really resonated with board members. It answers all the qualities they were looking for MWMC: vibrant, energetic, a “happening” organization. Since the logo uses the mirrored M and W, it’s far less of a leap in members’ minds from the original logo. The mosaic pattern allows for a much more colorful, spirited look, making it memorable and recognizable across channels. Best of all, the hope is the new look will re-energize membership pride, retain members and attract new members.

More work needs to be done to fully flush out the new look for MWMC. But it will be exciting to see where it leads.

UX Design Meets DIY

Colorful Big Binder ClipsI’ve been reading about UX Design and what a UX Designer does lately. I get the Design part, but was kinda confused about what the “UX” stands for — “Ultimate Extreme” Design, or “X out Ugly” Design?

Really it’s just a shortened way to say User eXperience Design and a lot of us find ourselves acting as a UX Designer all the time. What does a UX Designer do? Well, they ask a lot of questions, a lot of good questions. They love gathering data from several different design solutions that go to solve the same problem and find out which users (you people), prefer to use or even enjoy using. Basically, they try and create systems, products and methods that will help make the world a better place.

Which brings me to this little DIY find of the week. I’ll bet the designer of the ubiquitous binder clip would never have guessed how people would experience this handy device. Posted are 10 excellent, useful ways to use a binder clip that doesn’t necessarily involve holding paper together.

From making a Smartphone Stand, to stacking your beer in the fridge to frame-less pictures holders (my personal favorite), I’ll bet you’ll never look at binder clips the same again.

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What’s New at Grand Ciel

ALMSPI’m thrilled to announce am working with the Assistance League of Minneapolis/ St. Paul providing branding and graphic design services to this amazing philanthropic all-volunteer member organization!

To be honest, I had not heard of this non-profit before, but meeting this highly professional, well organized group and learning about the work that they do, I am so honored to know them and to be working with them.

The Assistance League of Minneapolis/St. Paul philanthropic programs are focused on feeding and clothing children, enhancing and enriching education and supporting and serving the community.

How does the Assistance League of Minneapolis/ St. Paul accomplish so much? A great deal has to do with their diverse group of talented volunteers. Funding for their programs come in part from proceeds from the Assistance League Thrift Shop. Everything raised in turn goes directly back into the community.

Actually, the Assistance League Thrift Shop doesn’t feel like a thrift shop at all! The clean, inviting store layout carries gently used upscale clothing, quality furniture, housewares, books, collectibles, shoes, linens, art and jewelry at fabulous prices.

Find out more about the Assistance League of Minneapolis/ St. Paul by visiting their website. Check out their Thrift Shop website for hours, location, how to donate items or to find that perfect something you’ve been looking for.

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Mixed Media Designs on CDs

CD Mixed Media Art Work By YawnI ran across these oddly delightful designs and a way to “recycle” old CDs. I was especially drawn to them as they feature suns and stars — all things Grand Ciel!

I’m in the middle of a giant purge, getting rid of old files, paper work, sorting through what I need to have securely shredded, i.e old tax documents. By nature I’m incredible organized and by no means a pack rat, but it’s amazing how stuff can creep up on you over time.

During this purge, I discover a box of old media with past work from years ago stored upon it. Zip disks, Jaz disks, floppy disks and the beast of them all, Syquest disks. I know persons of a certain age will have no idea what I am talking about.

I no longer have the drives to read any of these disks, but I’m delighted there’s an artist out there with the creative drive to add a new twist to data storage.

CD with mixed media art work comes courtesy of Yawn.

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I’m On Board!

Minnesota Women in Marketing and Communications Soft Cover Journal in Sassy OrangeI had been asked in the past to be on the board of Minnesota Women in Marketing and Communications (MWMC), but either the open position or the timing just wasn’t right. Now with the crafting of a brand new position “Design VP” for the board, I just had to say, “Yes!”

Because the position is brand spanking new, it’s a chance to meld and evolve it to best meet the needs of the organization. Plus, it gives me a chance to step out of my comfort zone and apply what I know in design and branding on a grander level. The hope is to help elevate the brand of this dynamic, energetic group of professional women who are incredible supportive in helping members enhance their careers, whether they are fresh out of college, in transition or moving on up the ladder.

If your profession is in the realm of marketing and communications — writers, public relations, marketing strategists, social media, brand experts, designers, photographers — definitely consider checking out MWMC. Unlike all the other professional acronym (AMA, MIMA, PRSA, AIGA and so on) organizations, MWMC isn’t so big that you feel like a number. You feel part of the group. For the rich, diverse range of program offered through out the year, it’s a membership that really does make a return on investment. The board work tremendously hard to make sure that it does. I’m so excited to be a part of it.

P.S. The image above is a soft cover journal (sporting a MWMC brand color — orange), that was given to volunteers at the MWMC Spring All-Member “Spark A Connection” event held at the Woman’s Club of Minneapolis.

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Whimsical Dollhouse Design

Whimiscal Dollhouse DesignWhen ever I see clever or whimsical design, especially using an image of the sun, moon and stars, I think Grand Ciel. Since summer starts tomorrow, I thought this was the perfect opportunity to lighten things up with a sweet little dollhouse for the kids in all of us.

Photo is courtesy of “Rethinking Life. Art and Philosophy of Life.”

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