April 24, 2015

A short interview

Terry’s Fabrics, a UK home furnishings retailer, has posted a quick little interview with me. To see thoughts from others, check out their entire Designer Insights series.


Courtesy of: Terrys Fabrics

FILED UNDER: Philosophy

February 20, 2015

Big typographic wall art tutorial

DIY typography wall art

I’ve been waiting to find something wonderful to hang on the empty chimney wall in our office. I finally got tired of searching and painted a DIY placeholder. It will do the job until I either win the lottery or find an affordable, huge… something. After posting a photo on Facebook, I had requests for a tutorial, so here’s how to make your own “wonderful” typographic wall art.

You will need:
A 30″ x 40″ canvas or other surface to paint on
Graphite transfer paper
Ballpoint pen
This downloadable template:

Tiled version (Sixteen 8.5″ x 11″ pages with 0.75″ overlap) OR
– Single page version (30″ x 40″ if you can print this big!)

(Do not use file for commercial purposes or financial gain; personal wall beautifying only.)

What to do:

1) Print out the template PDF at 100% size.

2) Tape the sheets together to form one large template.


Graphic tracing paper

3) Trace letters onto a canvas using graphite tracing paper placed under your template. Drawing the lines with a pen and ruler will help you keep track of where you’ve traced and keep your lines straight. Taping the papers to the canvas will help keep the design from shifting.

Trace the outlines

4) After tracing, go back and beef up any hard-to-see areas. It’s no fun painting when you can’t see your lines!

5) Paint the design in your favorite colors. I’ve used both artist acrylics and latex house paint with good results on canvas. Depending on the quality of your paint, you may need two coats to get perfect, even coverage.

How to make typographic wall art

6) Hang your wonderful masterpiece.

Typographic wall art tutorial

Typographic wall art tutorial

FILED UNDER: Downloads, Tips

February 17, 2015

2015 Oscar bingo and printable party kit

Free Oscar bingo game 2015

My free Oscar® bingo game is back by popular demand. For seven years running, I’ve made a game you can play while you watch the Academy Awards telecast at home. It’s lots of fun, and has even been featured on ABC TV. Grab these goodies before the Oscars this Sunday, Feb. 22!

How the game works:
There are 20 different game cards in the downloadable bingo file. I take care to arrange each card carefully; the bingo cards are not randomly generated. I’m aiming to make a bingo not too easy but not too hard.

– Save the PDF to your computer
– Open it in Adobe Reader
– Print the number of pages you need.

The first person to mark off five squares in a line wins. It could be a horizontal, vertical, or diagonal line. There’s no freebie in the middle, so you’ve got your work cut out for you. Give fun prizes to winners at your party or play long distance with friends by text or tweet (#oscarbingo; I’m @howaboutorange).

Like every year, my big disclaimer applies: Someone might get a bingo ten minutes into the telecast, or maybe your group won’t have a winner at all because my psychic powers have failed this year. Fingers crossed!


Printable Oscar party kit

Grab the bingo game:

Bingo game PDF (FREE)

For maximum stylishness, I’ve designed a pack of decorations and a ballot to go with the bingo freebie. Make your viewing party the best ever!

Matching printable goodies in my shop:

Oscar party printable pack of decorations
Just the matching ballot
Just the place cards
Just the signs
Just the bottle labels


“OSCAR®” and “ACADEMY AWARDS®” are registered trademarks of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.

FILED UNDER: Amusements, Downloads

January 22, 2015

Beginners and experts

Design experts

Source: Shunryu Suzuki

FILED UNDER: Philosophy

December 18, 2014

P is for Protein

Institute for Protein Design

The University of Washington’s Institute for Protein Design (IPD) is the first of its kind, founded with the aim of designing a new world of synthetic proteins to address challenges in medicine, energy and technology. The institute came to me needing a distinctive logo of its own that harmonizes with the University of Washington’s new branding.

To start, I surveyed standard illustrations and diagrams that researchers are used to seeing. I learned that the current way of representing the 3D structures of proteins was developed by a scientist named Jane Richardson. Her illustrations were the jumping-off point for the logo development.

Some early ideas:

Early logo concepts

Because a logo should be a simple tag or identifier for an organization, not a detailed illustration, our goal was a stylized mark that’s eye-catching, clean, and can be easily reproduced at large and small sizes. The first option above had the best response, but was deemed too much like a DNA helix.

So I kept the colorful, transparent, folding effect but turned it into a “p” for “protein.” We experimented with flipping the “p” over to add a “d” for “design,” and I also drafted another version of a “pd” made from looping shapes.

Later rounds

We also evaluated four potential color palettes that included the UW’s signature hue, a dark blue-purple.

Color palettes

In the end, the single “p” won out for its simplicity and was paired with the university’s brand typography. The violet and blue color scheme was selected to coordinate with the school’s tertiary palette for a fresh, energetic new look.

FILED UNDER: Recent work

October 31, 2014

Brand identity for a psychotherapy practice

Wildflower business cards

One of the many projects completed since I last updated this blog was a visual identity for the Wildflower Center for Emotional Health. It’s a brand new practice in Chicago specializing in women’s fertility and postpartum issues, along with support for relationships, self-esteem, anxiety, and work-life struggles.

The first task was to develop a logo using the name and color palette the client had settled on: orange for vitality, grounded with blue for a feeling of safety.

Wildflower logo concepts

Several logo concepts were presented. We refined the leaves on the client’s favorite to form a “W” and paired the mark with friendlier typography.

Wildflower logo

My survey of the branding of mental health practices revealed that most look a bit sad and like a sympathy card: soft colors and photographs of nature. A roundup of Chicago-based counseling practices revealed that we should not put a tree on the new website.

Counseling website design

I suggested instead that Wildflower might take a note from Lululemon or Athleta. Women’s activewear companies promote strength and possibility and show people, not trees. We decided to do the same. Photos could show someone who feels like you do right now, or someone you want to be like someday.

Squarespace website

Website slides

Above are some of the images in the home page slideshow.

Wildflower’s vision is to be a modern center that avoids the stigma of seeking professional help and empowers clients to take an active role in feeling more balanced, alive, and confident. Their new branding will help them accomplish that.

FILED UNDER: Recent work

July 22, 2014

Bean-to-bar chocolate packaging

Maverick Chocolate package

Maverick Chocolate Co. is a new business that hand crafts chocolate bars from ethically sourced beans. When they approached me about designing their visual identity, I jumped at the chance (and secretly hoped for free samples.) Located in historic Findlay Market in Cincinnati, Maverick’s brand salutes gentleman adventurers of yesteryear — those who did things a little differently, just like the company itself. We featured vintage engravings of “mavericks” and their whimsical flying machines on the packaging, a nod to owner Paul Picton’s work in the aviation industry. A different flying contraption is pictured on each flavor of bar along with the tagline, “Bean-to-bar chocolate for the adventurous palate.”

Maverick graphic elements

A bold color palette of black and red distinguishes Maverick from competitors in the bean-to-bar market. Textured die-cut envelopes fold into a reclosable wallet with a high-end feel on par with the superb quality of Maverick’s artisanal product line.

Die cut package

Chocolate bar packaging

FILED UNDER: Recent work

May 30, 2014

What German coziness looks like

Cafe script logos

Client Elena Williams approached me to design an identity for her new café in Newport, KY. A native of Germany, Elena explained that the restaurant and coffee shop should feel like Gemuedlichkeit. I said, “How’s that again?” And she said “German coziness”— people will come and drink cappuccino and eat cakes and pastries and fresh meats and cheeses and salads, and relax and feel comfortable and happy. Lovely!

While the shop was being renovated, we set out to make a logo. The clients had already selected a typeface (above left), but I suggested we explore some alternate designs as well. The original lettering had some legibility issues and, well, some attractiveness issues. BUT it was a great start and helped me see that they were going for a charming script, so I presented some options. And we had a winner.

Katharinas Cafe design work

I applied the logo to business cards, stickers to decorate take-out packaging, gift certificates, storefront signage, and a cost-effective (i.e. free) website template customized to match the new branding. Once the menus were designed and the remodel was complete, Katharina’s Café-Konditorei was up and running and doing a brisk business.

Cafe menu design

Cafe website

A German lesson for the day: Konditorei is the German word for a bakery specializing in pastries and sweets.


FILED UNDER: Recent work

February 25, 2014

2014 Oscar ballot and bingo game

free 2014 Oscars bingo cards

I just finished my sixth annual Oscar bingo and ballot set, free for the downloading. Whether you’re hosting a viewing party on Sunday or lounging with the fam, nothing makes the Academy Awards better than some friendly competition.

To use the ballot: Print one for each guest and have them mark their predictions before the show starts. The person with the most correct guesses wins.

To use the bingo cards: 20 different game cards are included in the PDF. Print out the number of pages you’ll need for your guests. The first person to mark off five squares in a line wins. It could be a horizontal, vertical, or diagonal line. (This year I removed the center “free” space to make you work a little harder.)

Download the 2014 Oscar ballot here

Download the 2014 Oscar bingo game here

And like every year, a disclaimer: Maybe someone will get a bingo ten minutes into the telecast, or maybe your group won’t have a winner at all because my psychic powers have failed. Best of luck!

FILED UNDER: Amusements, Downloads

December 12, 2013

Victorian home tour design

Victorian home tour design

The East Row Historic Foundation of Newport, KY asked me to design materials promoting their annual Victorian home tour and tea. Pictured here are posters that hung in local shops, postcard reminders, and the ticket/brochure featuring home histories and a map. Matching yard signs and a large street banner were also printed up.

The neighborhood is full of beautiful, historic homes, and the tour is a great way to explore lovely architecture and enjoy a dose of Christmas decorating. It’s infinitely more satisfying than strolling around at night hoping to find homeowners who’ve neglected to close their curtains. Not that I do that. Okay, I totally do that.

Home tour poster design

FILED UNDER: Recent work

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