Work: Make Your Expedition

Sedona, AZ is the kind of town you want to get out and explore. Lots of neat scenery, amazing views, and a really unique landscape. That's why there are so many tour companies in the city.

I was contacted by Hawk, owner of Make Your Expedition — a jeep rental company located in Sedona. While Pink Jeep Tours have become somewhat ubiquitous in the region, Hawk's business focuses on self-guided tours and rentals. allowing people to do exactly what the name suggests — make their own expeditions. 

One of my personal favorite formations (and one of the most famous, coincidentally) in Sedona is Bell Rock. I decided to use this as a primary focus of the mark, pulling key lines from the rock to create an icon that also showcases a concept of many different routes/lines creating one concept, a deep connection to the genesis of the company. I also pulled in some inspiration from the National Forest/Park Service signage found throughout the region — the brown background, funky shape, and rounded edges are inspirations I really wanted to reflect in this brand.

As the company grows, I envisioned the brand expanding into branded vehicles, something that will help the brand stand out in a very touristy area, and no doubt help generate more sales and sustainable long-term growth.

And just because I love process GIFs... :)

Work: 2016 was a Year of Love — Wedding Invites & Save the Dates

In all honesty, some of my favorite projects to work on center around major life events. Currently, birth announcements and baby shower elements are overwhelming my pin boards. 

2016 saw some of my favorite people tie the knot — and I was more than honored to be a part of their special days!

The challenge offered by the task of creating a set of wedding stationery is one that I really enjoy. I typically ask for the venue, as well as any styles the bride favors, then I take it and run with it. Coming up with unique ways to tie the two together is a blast. This year had quite an array of styles and venues, as you'll see below.

Want some help with an upcoming event? Head over to my contact page to get the ball rollin'.

 

Ariane & Guy

 

Liset & Joe

 

Annemarie & Ben

 

Talia & Tyler

I Used Math to Find a Replacement for My Ever-Disappointing Lions

Not long ago, I read a great article by Blythe Terrell on Five Thirty Eight. She talked about the tremendous loss she felt when her Rams relocated to Los Angeles, and was faced with a few options for her continuing NFL fandom: follow the team, default to her husband’s favorite team, be “that guy” who roots for fantasy players only, or use stats to find a team that fits her best. As a statistician, the answer was clear.

After Wild Card weekend, I was left with a feeling that’s become all-too-familiar as a lifelong Lions fan. Questioning why I even watch football anymore, why I continue to spend money on this team, and whether or not I want to continue putting up with the futility every year. It’s almost as if we can expect the same result, regardless of how the games end. The Lions will either under-perform with a surprising amount of talent (miss you Calvin Johnson, Barry Sanders, Jason Hanson, etc.), or they will over-perform and then fall apart embarrassingly in the playoffs (2011, 2014, 2016, etc.).

Imagine rooting for a team that doesn’t really care what happens on the field, that continues to string you along with the promise of “we’re almost there!” That’s the Lions. More accurately, though, the tagline should be “maybe next year.” Being a Lions fan is easily summed up in GIFs:

So, I decided that 60 years was enough time to give a team to get its crap together. Since everyone else aside from the Texans, Jaguars, and Browns have been to the Super Bowl at least once (mind you, the other 3 franchises are all right around 20 years old at this point)... being a Lions fan rarely pays dividends, unless of course you enjoy the pain and suffering that comes with it. In that case, good on ya. But that got me wondering, what if I actually had fun rooting for an NFL team? 

I used the same process as the aforementioned Blythe Terrell for this. You want to start with measurable statistics that you can rank teams by. I came up with 25 because I have a flair for overdoing it. They were:

  1. 2016 Finish - How the team finished this year

  2. Bandwagon Factor - Are the team's next 5 years likely to be better than their previous 5?

  3. Bang for the Buck - Wins per fan dollars spent

  4. Behavior - Suspensions by players on team since 2007, with extra weight to transgressions vs. women

  5. Branding & Design - Branding & design efforts by the team, based on Instagram posts

  6. Coaching - Strength of on-field leadership

  7. Consistency - How steady the team's past 5 years have been (Ultimate Standings on ESPN)

  8. Fan Equity - how likely fans are to support the team based on performance

  9. Fan Relations - Courtesy by players, coaches and front offices toward fans, and how well a team uses technology to reach them

  10. Future Wins - Projected wins over next 5 seasons

  11. Loyalty Factor - how attendance is affected by winning

  12. Me Factor - the X-factor: do I just like the team or not?

  13. Ownership - Honesty; loyalty to core players and the community

  14. Past Decade - The team's overall performance over the past 10 years

  15. Player Futures - Future power rankings from ESPN

  16. Players - Effort on the field, likability off it

  17. Playoff Appearances Last 10 Years - Postseason appearances in the past decade

  18. Playoff WIns All Time - All time success in the postseason

  19. Road Equity - how well the team travels/has a nationwide preference

  20. Social Equity - social media presence of the team

  21. Stadium Experience - Quality of venue; fan-friendliness of environment; frequency of game-day promotions

  22. Tradition - Championships/division titles/wins in team's entire history

  23. Ultimate Standings - ESPN's annual franchise rankings

  24. Uniform - According to my own opinions

  25. Visitability - rank of the city the team plays in

Then, it was time to determine what was most important. There’s a great social survey site that will help you determine weight of importance called All Our Ideas (allourideas.org). I put all 25 factors into the database, then started answering questions. This process asks you two questions and requires you to pick the more important option to you. Each time you answer, it determines a score for each option (based on the number of times you have chosen that option vs. over other options).

My top 10 criteria and their associated scores were:

  1. 95 - Consistency

  2. 90 - Coaching

  3. 89 - Player Futures

  4. 88 - Players 

  5. 76 - Fan Relations

  6. 76 - Ultimate Standings

  7. 74 - Playoff Appearances Last 10 Years

  8. 67 - Me Factor

  9. 67 - Branding & Design 

  10. 65 - Past Decade Performance

I laughed, because the Lions rank pretty low in most of these categories.

Which brings me to an important point: I know I will get crap for this. But remove the emotion from fandom, and it’s essentially no different than a business transaction. You align yourself with and spend your time/money on brands that match your needs and wants. If you value size and utility over fuel economy, you’ll probably hate your Toyota Prius. If I were to draw a parallel to typical fandom here, you’d keep driving that Prius and complain about all the things that are wrong with it for the rest of your life. And if you ever switched to that truck that matches your wants and needs, you’re not a “true fan.” Meh. We shouldn’t put so much pressure on ourselves to endure the frustration year over year. I’m not saying you should switch teams every year, but 27 years of futility and disappointment is long enough to make an informed decision, in my opinion.

My time and money is valuable, so if I’m going to continue to be an NFL fan, I’m going to at least entertain the idea of enjoying football on Sundays while occasionally getting the joy of postseason wins and pride in coaching/ownership that cares.

So, with that in mind, I pulled ranks of every NFL team in each category, from a bevy of different sources (links below). I then assigned a 0-100 score based on the team’s ranks. 100 to the highest, 0 to the lowest.

For the total team scores, I weighted each rank by the scores we derived earlier, then added them together. To make things a little cleaner, I divided all totals by the max, so our clear winner would be 1.00.

When the dust settled, here’s my top 5:

  1. Pittsburgh Steelers - 1.00

  2. New England Patriots - 0.97

  3. Green Bay Packers - 0.96

  4. Seattle Seahawks - 0.88

  5. Indianapolis Colts - 0.79

The Lions finished 22nd.

The final scores for all 32 NFL teams (click to expand)

So, how does it feel to find out that math says I should be a Steelers fan? I honestly kinda like it already. I’ve never actually been to the city, but there are a lot of things that remind me of home (Detroit). Though not technically a Midwest town (I understand this is somewhat hotly contested based on who you ask), it definitely has the cultural chops to fit right in as one. A loyal fan base, likable stars, and beautiful uniforms match the things I like about the Lions. But they also offer great coaching, consistency, success in the past 10 years, and something worth watching in the postseason.

Le’Veon Bell is one of my favorite players of all time (Go Green! Go White!), and Antonio Brown is one of the most likable guys in the NFL. Ben Roethlisberger is a model of consistency, and the defense seems to be making a comeback. I can dig it.

You also have to love the guy that brought us this GIF

You also have to love the guy that brought us this GIF

So, for 2017, I’m all in on the Steelers. The cynic in me says this is the year the Lions go 14-2 and win a Super Bowl. But for now, let’s see how right this formula was!

Chaos Breeds Creativity

I’ve been using this descriptor for myself for the past few years: creative human. I like the simplicity of it, and it’s something that describes me as a person. I don’t like putting labels on it - sure, I’m a designer. But I’m also a chef, an amateur carpenter, a marketer, a writer, a manager, a coach… you get the idea. I approach all of these with the same mindset: a little bit of creativity goes a long way.

The creative mind has always interested me. Studies have shown that we’re both introverted and extroverted at the same time. That we’re intrinsically motivated, and see the world as a chance for self-expression. We daydream, record everything around us, and often lose track of time. The creative mind never stops - it’s a gift and a curse. I often lay awake at night working through ideas that will likely never come to fruition while storing them in my ever-expanding mental filing cabinet of passion projects.

So what sets a creative mind apart? In my humble opinion, it’s the ability to thrive in chaos. Tight deadlines, last minute changes, and unplanned obstacles are a part of a designer’s daily life. Chefs turn basic ingredients to amazing cuisine through a process that (in most kitchens) can only be described as chaos. You’ve got to be able to pivot when you hit a bump, and creatives seem to have that common thread in their DNA.

Some of the best pieces of creation were created under less-than-ideal circumstances.

Did you know that the part we all know and love from MLK’s “I have a dream” speech was almost entirely improvised? The night before the speech, MLK’s group lobbied several suggestions that were put together into a final draft that he was to use the following day (this is what was delivered to the press). On one of the grandest stages he’d ever spoken on, though, he found himself essentially reading this collection of feedback off the page.

He paused at the 7th paragraph, seemingly because he had lost his spot. His friend, gospel singer Mahalia Jackson, shouted “tell ‘em about the dream, Martin!” In that moment, he pushed the prepared speech to the side. His speech writer, Clarence B. Jones, said to the people around him: “These people out there today don’t know it yet, but they’re about to go to church.” Following the long pause around the 12 minute mark, there's a large shift in passion and conviction:

The rest, as they say, is history. It’s amazing to think that one of the greatest orators in American history decided (mid-speech, mind you) to go off script. But this is where a creative’s ability to harness chaos shines. He took one cue, and delivered the best speech he had ever given.

Working within the constraints you are given to develop something extraordinary is ultimately the power of the creative mind. Where some may say “I can’t do it because of X, Y, and Z,” a creative’s response is typically “what can I do with X, Y, and Z?”

Take this live performance in Koln by Keith Jarrett. The venue had substandard equipment (unplayable, in his words), and he wanted to skip the show entirely. He was convinced to do it (albeit begrudgingly), but then told a crew to record it to show the world what a musical disaster sounded like. Instead, he fought through it and created what is now known as one of the best solo jazz performances of all time. Listen to it - you wouldn’t have any idea that it was created under such extreme circumstances:

Perhaps one of my favorite examples of creating from chaos is Stanislav Krawczyk (@standarkart on Instagram). Born with a degenerative eye condition and cerebral palsy, most of his young life was spent inside of Ukrainian hospitals. At the age of 13, he decided dark art was the perfect way to express his life - the pain, emotion, frustrations associated with his conditions and upbringing. Instead of letting the chaos define his being, he has parlayed this extreme set of circumstances into a career selling his artwork in Los Angeles.

Artwork by Stanislav Krawczyk

Artwork by Stanislav Krawczyk

We spend so much time (and money, if we’re being honest) trying to create order, calm, and cleanliness. Often, we feel it reduces stress and helps maintain some semblance of control. But that begs the question - are we working against ourselves? We’ve seen some of the best work come from less-than-ideal circumstances. Had Martin Luther King followed his speech as it were on paper, it still would have been good, but I doubt we’d speak of it in the legendary way we do now. Keith Jarrett’s piano performance would have been just another concert.

Chaos allows us to explore other avenues, ways that are often not considered when everything's going according to plan. When a constant is taken away, how do we find new ways to achieve better (different, even) results?

Chaos breeds creativity.

---

So, with that in mind, I’m pivoting. I have so many ideas to share, so many people to learn from - and my website was sitting here as a stagnant portfolio. I’m still planning on sharing work (and I am always open to working with new clients!), but I will also use this platform to share things I learn from my mentors, new ideas, design work, and anything else I find of value.

Hope you enjoy!

The Quest for Houston: NFL Playoff Wallpapers

It's that special time of year — the weather is getting colder, the playoffs are firing up, and the Lions are getting ready for the NFL draft.

I tried some new effects on a wallpaper before the Lions lost embarrassingly in Seattle, and I was really feelin' the blizzard effect I came up with. So, I decided to whip up some more for the remaining teams left in the 2017 NFL Playoffs.

The key to mini-projects like this is developing repeatable steps that make the work much more efficient. So, you start by building a nice background comp (lord help us if this ever happens in Houston):

And then you add your players in, building the desired look step-by-step. Building templates and a process like this takes more time up front, but it saves you a lot of headache on the backend.

Here's what the step-by-step looks like:

Feel free to download these for personal use — just open the lightbox, right click the image, and hit 'Save Image As...'

Hope you enjoy!

Work: Headquarters

Headquarters is a high-energy restaurant centered around sports, music, and some damn good food. The owners are originally from New Jersey, so they brought some unique inspiration with them - and it's the perfect concept for the Northwest Valley, a place that has sorely needed a higher end sports bar for quite some time.

Headquarters brought me on the help them brand the restaurant. We went through several iterations of ideas, and finally settled on a look that is bold but classic - it evokes the sports theme around the restaurant's concept with traditional block lettering and a roundel, and it also creates an icon that is easily recognizable in a very crowded area.

In addition to the branding, I developed the menu, grand opening collateral, website, social media promotions, and other assorted marketing materials.

Work: Wink 24

Wink24 is a local Italian restaurant with a unique twist. Local food blog EaterAZ breaks it down:

"The name is inspired by Ronan Sean Thompson — the local boy who died of cancer but whose mother has become a voice in the battle to cope and the fight for a cure … a voice so loud that Taylor Swift wrote a song about Maya’s experience. Owner Fernanda Borletti and Ronan’s mother, Maya, are as tight as sisters, right along with our mutual friend who introduced us to this place. So right there, we’re taking back every first impression we had. Fernanda describes a “wink” as a nod that you might give someone when you know what they’re going through. That her husband would often wink at Ronan assure him that he had support and love all around. And the bird on the logo represents a hummingbird that hung around during young Ronan’s funeral."

Located in the Biltmore Fashion Square, this vibrant but rustic eatery certainly catches you by surprise. From the bright accents and patio furniture, to the graffiti on their gorgeous wood burning oven - Wink24 has a funky vibe that comes from owner Fernanda Borletti's eccentric, energetic energy.

I was asked to help bring Fernanda's visions to reality - from the menu, to the grand opening collateral, to the oh-so-fun kid's menus. The menus were created with the end user in mind - since Fernanda and Ruggero believe in the power of communication and experience shared at the table over delicious food - the ordering process needed to be simple. The rest of the collateral followed suit.

Read more on EaterAZ »

Work: Mockup Arena

Mockup Arena was a project I developed after realizing the gap in available templates and mockups for sports fans (and subsequent need for this kind of product). With the help of the design community, I was able to launch Mockup Arena in February of 2016 with around 30 templates and mockups. Since then, the library has grown to nearly 50 templates, all premium in quality.

The files are still available for free download to anyone for personal use (see below). The project has seen immense response and praise, with total downloads over the life of the site surpassing 31,000. The long-term goal of this site was to help aspiring sports designers show their work and learn the skills necessary to develop a career in the sports and/or design industries.

Update: the site was a casualty of my growing list of competing priorities, but you can still access all the downloads at the links below.

PSD Downloads  /  AI Downloads  /  SVG & EPS Downloads

Conceptual Work: Hamilton Tigers

It’s been 90 years since the Hamilton Tigers took the ice. Creating a brand for a team that hasn’t been around for that long was an fun exploration. On one hand, there’s not much history to contend with (a bigger creative barrier in hockey than in most sports). On the other, having no history gives you little to go on in terms of team spirit, accomplishments, and traditions.

I decided to bring as much of the old Hamilton Tigers back as I could — making the stripes the star of the show on the uniforms, as they were in days of old. The tiger is brought back in a much simpler, yet bold manner: a perfect way to re-enter the NHL after nearly a century.

Conceptual Work: Basha High School

As with most high schools, Basha's current brand identity is a chaotic collection of templates, fonts, colors, styles, and applications. The goal of this personal project was to move the school away from the Memphis Grizzlies' logo, and give Basha something they can be proud to call their own. A strong, unique brand that embodies the proud, determined spirit of both the school's namesake and its student body/faculty.

Work: 4for4

4for4 is a fantasy football resource website with a heavy focus on data analytics and Daily Fantasy services. They do it well, too - they've been the most accurate source for player rankings and forecasts since 2010. 

In 2015, 4for4 began work on implementing a new brand, and brought me on board to help develop creative that furthered their refreshed look. This included creating additional brand assets, like social media & email banners, motion intro/outros for videos, as well as print, PPC, and social media ad development.

Work: Healthstyle Magazine

Healthstyle Magazine is an Aizona-based publication focused on creating and maintaining healthy lifestyles, one article at a time. The primary focus of the magazine is to educate the general public about different health initiatives, events, and innovations, with a secondary goal of driving key business lines for Arrowhead Health Centers.

This project centered around a rebranding after 3 years of the prior look. The focus was to move the magazine from a younger, playful feel to a more mature, authoritative look. While the content was great, the team felt that the prior branding was missing its target demographic.

The rebrand resulted in a very clean and modernized, but refined look that speaks more clearly to mature, educated audiences. Since adopting the new look, the team has been able to secure cover stories featuring the likes of author David Emerald, record-setting triathlete James Lawrence (The Iron Cowboy), and NFL Hall of Famer Eric Dickerson.

"Doug is an amazing person to work with. He stays on point to meeting deadlines and produces results that exceed expectations."
-Guy Berry, Chief Operating Officer

Work: NCFA Yearbooks

The NCFA is a college fantasy football league run on Chris Creamer’s Sports Logo Community.

Since joining the league in 2012, I had a dream to make this fantasy league the premier college fantasy league on the internet. Couple this with my passion for sports design, and we have a super-fun, extensive side project that occupied my free time for about 6 months out of the years we produced these books.

I started the 'media guide’ craze in 2013, and after seeing the tremendous support from both the design and fantasy sports community, I decided to head up our small design team of 3 and take 2014’s to the next level.

These books contain painstaking amounts of detail. Over 400 hours went into recreating league member-submitted uniforms and logo sets for their teams. Once those were input into our standardized vector templates, I jersey-swapped (read, Photoshopped) all of the players into their respective “new” jerseys.

At the end of the day, the final numbers are: 123 jerseys recreated, 39 jersey swaps, 72 stories written, 14 different kinds of cleats documented, and 205 pages of sheer college and fantasy football nirvana.

Conceptual Work: Michigan Wolves

I was invited to join in a contest to help brand the 8 initial teams in the A11FL -- a spring football league that was slated to begin play in 2015. This was my entry for my home state of Michigan. The option was given to take on the old USFL moniker, the Panthers, or go with a new direction with the Wolves. Since Michigan has some very passionate college football fans, I liked the promise of playing off U of M's mascot in the team name, and used the type as an opportunity to bring MSU ties into the brand as well.

Work: Redirect Health Branding & Collateral

Redirect Health is a company that is changing healthcare by challenging the status quo associated with traditional health insurance and medicine. Their focus is on making healthcare easier, more accessible, and more cost effective than what most consumers are used to. 24/7 Visits by Phone, plans with no copays for office visits, and affordable premiums for employers and employees alike make Redirect Health a company unlike any other.

The focus of this project was to bring these ideas and feelings into the branding. Something that is light, friendly, and clear as day to understand - an experience not commonly found in healthcare coverage. The website and collateral created have been designed to eschew the industry standard - something that a layman can look at and understand. Health insurance is typically very complex, so the design needed to catch people's attention by breaking that barrier down up front.

"Doug is the guy everyone goes to when they need good work quickly. He is constantly surprising me with how fully he understands the vision and can recreate it digitally."
- David Berg, Co-Founder & Chairman

Conceptual Work: Big Sky Rebrand

As a graduate of a Big Sky school, I was naturally excited to hear the conference was rebranding. I decided to come up with my own version of what I think the Big Sky should look like — capturing the frontier spirit of the schools in the conference. I put together a branding concept document that is currently hosted and viewable on ISSUU.