Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Rise and Shine

Tomorrow Starbucks is giving away a free coffee to anyone who brings in a reusable container. I was thinking of bringing in an empty milk-jug just to see how they react. Anyway, props to StarCo for making people environmentally aware by giving them free coffee. If I liked plain Starbucks, I'd be there, but without milk, syrup and sprinkles, this free offer is tantamount to offering me a shirt with no sleeves or collar, in a fashionable white. Sure it's a free "shirt", but am I excited about it?

As I commute to work, I've noticed that there are more and more ads for breakfast options. 7-11 has a breakfast sausage quesadilla that they claim is "flat and easy to eat." Boy is this country getting lazy… elongated holding and over-chewing of foods is just too much trouble. Forget cereal! For the more flavor-conscious (and wealthy) breakfaster, Panera, to keep with our "Mexi-fast" theme, now offers a jalapeƱo & cheddar bagel breakfast sandwich. You think the title has enough words, but they've left out some key ingredients: a sheared (like a sheep?) egg and smoked ham. And let's not forget our favorite creepy mascot's, Burger King's king, recent theft of a McDonald's classic, the sausage McMuffin. They've copied it (can you patent a sandwich?) and are selling it for less. I couldn't care less about this sandwich (why would I eat an English muffin when the establishment is dripping with biscuits?), but I am curious about the fallout. Blogs are asking, "Should McDonald's strike back?!" I suppose they are suggesting that MD steal a BK item and do the same. Grimace speeds away with a Whopper Jr. under his arm…

Funnel cake sticks are an item that should be more widely available to the public, but what I really want from McDonald's is for them to mix breakfast in with the rest of the daily menu. I want a Big Mac with biscuits for buns, orange juice and fries that are battered in the crust of the hashbrowns. Is that too much to ask?! They could also toss a banana into one of those McFlurries and call it a "morning dessert." Thank you for your applause; I've always been a marketing wizard.

Speaking of marketing, over the years I have realized that often times, departments, clients, etc. are apt to want new and glorious designs for everything, even when the pieces are in the same campaign. It can be hard to steer people away from the notion that recognizable may be more communicative than shiny. Audiences are too busy to take the time to inspect all aspects of a marketing message, but if they receive something and recognize the brand, they will most likely react by saying. "Oh yeah, I remember that X is offering Y. I'll sign up…"

This technique also makes things easier for the project manager, the writer and the designer. When things need to be changed to fit target audiences, communicate another set of information or catch attention, the work is minimized, and delivery can be more timely. At NACAC, I wrote and designed a membership piece with elements that can be changed/moved when needed without much effort for those involved:

Attention-grabbing headline

Photos that relate to audience

Header that applies to them



Contact info

If BK can repurpose a sandwich, we can certainly repurpose elements of a campaign… I'm getting hungry.

Friday, April 9, 2010

Okay Okay

I guess I can't use the excuse that I'm busy with the play anymore––it went off very well, by the way, we raised about $2500 for our charity. The Firm is considering our next project, thinking along the lines of the 3-Day or something similar.

Meanwhile… design-land is wonderful and I'm happy to have a new freelance job with My College Guide, a magazine for students. I've written for them before. The day-job is rolling along… just finished some logos for the national conference in NO:

What I've Learned About New Orleans so far:
  • They are very into St. Louis, which is confusing because our conference this year is in St. Louis. Which city gets to claim ownership of this 796-year-old (wish him a happy birthday on the 25th!) crusader and patron of the arts? (Where's my king-patron?!!)
  • The ingredients to gumbo are depicted in the food logo, sans one main ingredient: sausage. I hope you can understand why I left out the sausage without me going into a lengthy explanation… and while we're on the food theme, may I say it's difficult to make a beignet look like anything but a small, yellow-white pillow.
  • The population in general has an aversion to water… strange! Seriously though, I was told explicitly not to use a "rebuilding theme." As if I would submit something like this:

  • They think the Fleur-de-lis is all theirs. This may be true in the US, but anywhere else in the world it summons images of French monarchs with really big, white wigs.
I'm looking forward to visiting the area in 2011––I've never been, but I tend to enjoy cities that allow me to drink in the street.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

The Vagina Monologues

I'm getting excited for our production of The Vagina Monologues! I've never been this involved in the theatre (besides having to go to just about every show in college thanks to having to actor roommates)… and it's a challenge, but great fun to have creative control over the marketing pieces for the show and the logo for the group that's putting it on.

I'm still working on some materials and will post shortly.

We've rescheduled auditions for Saturday, Feb 6 at 3 pm at the Cleveland Park Library. Stop on by!

Monday, January 25, 2010

The Movies

© 2009 Warner Brothers Ent. All rights Reserved.

I watched The Hangover for the first time about a week ago. Near the end (spoiler alert!), after they find a tiger and a baby a baby, steal a police car, count cards, make a hostage exchange, etc., I was disappointed in myself for not figuring out that the groom-to-be was on the hotel roof until Ed Helms said that hotel windows don't open in Vegas. I knew the answer, but the story was so complex, I got distracted.

I'd like to take this opportunity to call Flash "My The Hangover of software." Flash gives me the set-up, but, as it reveals its capabilities as I design, working through the intricacies, I see more and more tools, but lack the clues to get to the end… in a haze of getURLs, buttons, clips, timelines, and repetition. I can't quite remember what I learned last time. My education was in multimedia design, but as I've moved along it's been harder and harder to grasp the programming. Clearly, it's me struggling to use both halves of my brain––Flash is an admittedly great tool, that I have to (suck it up!) relearn every couple of months instead of curling up with some popcorn. Check out this header:


Somehow my sister and I shorten Thanksgiving to T-GIVO over email a few years ago. I think it was just the right mix of being too lazy to type a 12-letter word out and our weird genetic bond that gives us an understanding of the other's strangeness.

What's even more strange than my sister and I is the sudden onslaught of Thanksgiving greeting cards. I can see a Thanksgiving greeting making sense in business. It is non-denominational (unless you count "American"), but more specific than Happy Winter (with a Purely Coincidental Large Chunk of Time Off Around December 25th). But why in world would you buy Aunt May a greeting card to help her celebrate the fact that she has to make turkey and fixin's for 17 people and 9 children? Not to mention clean the bathroom because Uncle George is tired and four beers deep into the couch after his harrowing experience racing against the clock and the other 3,000 people at Safeway to score some fresh sage and three eggs.

Needless to say, I approve of my client's approach, using the greeting as an extra and not the only message. Using the "card" as an email header, they sent out a festive e-blast with some solid info for their members––two birds with one stone. (There's got to be a less violent way to put that––let's say two pies with one fork, in honor of our food-based holiday).

Here are the comps I sent them, although they ultimately went with a more elaborate version of the first:

Sea Change

Every year at work, we strain to make our annual report as interesting as possible. I already know what you're thinking: oxymoron. I looked through tons of samples and the most "entertaining" ARs seem to be laden with extra pages containing art with a brilliant quotes with low transparencies, so that they appear to whisper inspiration… on beautifully textured paper. I love this look, but it's a no-go when you are trying to save money and time.

Trying to borrow inspiration from the text (aka a list of items we did last year), I stumbled on the phrase "sea change" and was struck clueless. SEA CHANGE? A moist, salty version of regular change? So I did what all good researchers do and Wiki'ed it. Turns out this is from Full Fathom Five, a section of The Tempest.

Full fathom five[1] thy father lies;

Of his bones are coral made;

Those are pearls that were his eyes;

Nothing of him that doth fade,

But doth suffer a sea-change[2]

Into something rich and strange.

Sea-nymphs hourly ring his knell:


Hark! now I hear them — Ding-dong, bell.

This was awesome not only because Jackson Pollock based his best-known piece of work on it, but because it applied directly (not to the forehead) to the theme that transformation, though painful, will improve things. And then you get to ring a bell according to Shakespeare. I did my best to use a mix of these themes for the cover, resulting in a message that says, "Even through sea change, our focus should be on students."

Feel that kelp!


As many weddings as the average person has been to (I just counted and I think I'm up to about 15), you'd think the population of America would have a good understanding of how and why the RSVP system works. You'd be wrong. It amazes me that even at my best friend's low-key wedding, she had to follow-up call some strays who couldn't seem to get their postage-ready cards back in the mail within five weeks.

Still, the wedding was lovely and so were the invitations. Designed by the happy couple and myself, check them out below.

Here's the invite for the intimate ceremony:

And here's the invite for the potluck picnic they had the next day:

And ever-difficult to return RSVP card:

Just heard from the bride––someone bought them Rock Band II! I'm sure it was because the invites were so awesome. Seems like a fair trade.

Timing is Everything

Living just outside the Capital Beltway, I know that I will be severely less angry during the day if I leave after the HOV lanes are open. For those of you unfamiliar with the DC-Metro area, let me share with you the formula for calculating how long it will take to get from point A to point B:

B – A = amount of cars x drivers who are still technically asleep + how badly you need to be on time (squared)–zooming down the shoulder at great risk of being chased by state police

Too bad Nostradamus checked out almost 450 years ago––we could sure use his predictions about how long it will take to finish the Hot Lanes

All complaints aside, I'm enjoying November as a time to catch up on things I've been meaning to do. Last year it was Nanowrimo (watch for the publication of my unedited novel!) this year it's blog time. I plan to showcase a few of my designs, plug things I like and generally share a lump of Sarah-thoughts with people who have time to follow link after link on the the Internet as a way to get through the day.

I get through the day by thinking about the loveliness of Holland Cox products. Here's a card Valerie and I designed: