Stacked drawers of wood type waiting for air compressor in my garage.
Stacked drawers of wood type waiting for air compressor in my garage.
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I was approached earlier this year to assist with a rebrand for Olympia Coffee Roasting Co. This would be a very humbling process, because they had strong if somewhat diverse branding by the very talented designer David White, and their customers are very loyal. But owners Oliver Stormshak and Sam Schroeder really wanted the brand to feel more personal… to maintain some familiarity, while nudging it into a fresh direction. I was intrigued and a little intimidated.
The process of designing a new logo was admittedly challenging. I worked on numerous concepts, some of which I really liked, that just weren’t feeling right to Oliver, who was responsible for guiding the rebrand. We kept plugging away, taking our time to find something that struck at the root of what he wanted to see and feel. After exploring a number of directions, we actually came back around to a typographic treatment I had created for a business card I designed for OCR some time previously, the “to eleven” card. Using the familiar typeface Rosewood, which is a pervasive element in their former brand, it really felt like home ground to Oliver and had the advantage of offering a gentle transition for current customers and staff. Okay…. we were on our way.
The next phase was to design new bag labels that would be letterpressed. Now that we had a very simple typographic logo, the design came together quickly. In some design and engineering sessions with Oliver and Honor Forte (who works for OCR and also designs for the company), the requirements for this ambitious new label came into focus. Honor had the idea to include a tree line illustration on the label. This gave the label a visual nucleus to organize around, and the wavy sunburst logo treatment emerged as a response to the treeline. I’ve always thought of my morning coffee as liquid sunshine in our rather grey place. I wanted to convey this feeling in the label design.
The label also needed to perform some other work besides just sitting on the bag looking pretty. Oliver wanted to provide a take-away piece that could be retained after the bag was empty and recycled. (Hint.) He wanted this detachable piece to contain more thorough information on the coffees than is typical on bag labels. I hit on the idea pretty early to create a perforated label that could be ripped off the bag, and which could be lifted up from the bottom to reveal additional information about the coffee. There is also a modest space available for tasting and brewing notes.
Without laboring readers too much about the ins and outs of the printing, this was a huge project for the press, and required meticulous and exacting control. The labels go through the press four times, so the 8,000 labels required 32,000 impressions. I’ve never mixed so much ink. I’ve never popped so many die-cuts out of their paper frames, I’ve never checked the ink fountain so constantly for just the right delivery of ink. I’ve never riffled through so many stacks of printing looking for errant prints. It was challenging but ultimately a fantastic demonstration of what The Sherwood Press can do.
Click HERE to see a set of photos from the printing production of the labels.
I’m so honored to have had the opportunity to design for my very favorite Olympia product. I feel humbled and grateful for Oliver’s trust and confidence. I just dropped by the downtown store today and saw the bags with the new labels on the shelf for the first time. It’s a satisfying conclusion to a long and fruitful process. THANK YOU OLYMPIA COFFEE ROASTING CO.!!!
Okay, it’s official. I hate logo design contests. Well… I always did hate logo design contests. But as time goes on, I think I hate them more, and my most recent experience (last year) with a pretty important local logo design contest has sealed my resolve never to enter one again, until the next time….
I’ll admit, I have wanted to design a new logo for the Olympia Farmer’s Market for years. I just think they’re current logo, which has been around a LOOONNNNGGG time, is just so, well, 1989. I don’t actually know when it was designed, but it feels like 1989 to me. I don’t like the diamond shape, I don’t like the typography, and I don’t like the nondescript flower poking up out of the bottom, in a mostly colorless logo. I especially don’t like the version of it that has shadowed type. Our market is a vibrant institution and this logo just doesn’t convey any of that…. to me.
So, one afternoon last summer, while I was on my way to Seattle for the evening, I found out that a logo contest for the Olympia Farmer’s Market was due to close that very evening. What???? My heart sank. Even though I hated logo contests, it appeared that my chance to help rebrand the market was hours away from being gone. Dang!
I thought to myself… perhaps I could make it home in time to slam together a concept before midnight. I would have to come up with a great concept on the way home, and then execute it the moment I got in the door.
That’s exactly what I did. On the way home from Seattle, I came up with my idea. It was going to take a little time to put together, so I also planned out the exact sequence of stuff I’d have to do to pull it off. I got home, it was 10:00 pm. Two hours before the deadline.
I came in the door and immediately told my son Parker to change into new clothes: khaki pants, button-down shirt, bare feet and a big floppy straw hat. I seated him on a low stool in the living room and stuck my cello in his arms in the position of a guitar, and posed his arms, hands, legs, and head. I got out my camera and took several pictures, then released him from service.
I ran down the hill to the press with my camera and plugged it into my work computer to download the pictures. I picked the one I liked and emailed it to myself. I did some furious searching for a squash illustration… found a good one that would work okay (for concept-level work) and scanned it and then emailed that too. Quick! Ran home, then opened the files and then dumped them into Adobe Illustrator. I locked the photo and then went about tracing it (stupidly) with pen tools, trying to turn the complex photo into more simple line art. It looked alright. Then I brought in the squash illustration and carefully nudged it into Parker’s line-art arms, masking the illustration where needed. Finally, I created spot color fills, selected color, and then with just minutes to go, created the typographic portion of the logo concept. The contest rules also required that contestants create a web-page banner of a specific size. Weird. I did it anyway, and attached the whole thing to an email and then, guess what? I went to bed. Two hours start to finish.
What happened next started out as kind of exciting and suspenseful, then turned into something of a head-scratcher, then went from head-scratcher to head-shaker, to whatev-er. The nice people managing the contest put up all the submissions on their facebook page, inviting the public to comment on their favorites, which people did in droves. There were a number of submissions that had a head-start (they were put up apparently as they came in) and so even though mine seemed reasonably popular, it never really caught up to the front-runners. There were the usual wild assortment of logo concepts, from polished and professional (and somewhat sterile) to funky and organic, to total off-the-wall, to “did your eleven year old nephew design this?” I mean, the usual, right?
As time wore on I realized that, well, while glad that I went ahead and participated, I could have used more time, and other submissions were probably a better fit and — more power to them — would probably win the contest. Oh well.
Well that’s not how it happened. No. In fact, nothing happened at all, for weeks, and then weeks blended into months. Nothing. No announcements, no winner. Then much later, and I’m too lazy to look up when, the market announced that “due to a lack of submissions,” and to some lack of clarity about the requirements for the logo, the Board had decided to OPEN THE CONTEST BACK UP and close it again on December 31, 2011.
Okay, huh. I thought, this gives me a great chance to polish-up my concept and resubmit it. But then, I thought, hell no. If they did not like any of the submissions enough to choose one, then they probably wouldn’t like mine a second time even if it were buffed-up. Plus, I was kind of affronted on behalf of everyone who submitted a design. It felt kind of like a slap in the face, or maybe more like someone casually spitting on your shoe. There were lots of submissions, incidentally, a few of them quite good. Better than what they have now (no insult meant to those who are attached the the existing logo.)
Well, after December 31st, I perked up again waiting to hear who had won, because even though it was not likely to be me, I looked forward to a new logo for the farmer’s market. Let’s see it!
At some point I wrote back to the organizer, asking for a status update. She never responded to me. I let it go. Well, until today, when I decided to give my account for those interested in the trials and tribulations of designers. So I finally called the market office again to ask what happened. I told the man I spoke to that I was writing a blog post on my experience and that I needed information from the market to make my post complete. The nice lady who organized the contest called me back. Yeah, tell them you’re writing a blog post and they get right on back to you.
And it’s nothing earth shattering. She just said that the Board didn’t like any of the logos that were submitted, and even after a second round of submissions, were underwhelmed. She said that due to budget issues, there was also no money to implement a new logo anyway, though they would eventually try to find a local designer to create a new logo. I told her that I thought it was disrespectful not to communicate with the contestants about the contest fizzling out in this way. I recommended that she write a letter to everyone to tell them what happened and thank them for their contributions. I couldn’t tell if she thought that was a good idea or not. I thought I could hear her eyes roll, though.
It’s one thing to enter a contest knowing you might not win. No biggie. It’s another thing to enter a contest and ultimately find out that NOBODY won… that nobody COULD win… that the whole contest was badly conceived, badly designed, and very badly executed.
I’ll just conclude by saying this: if you need a new logo for your organization, have the sense to do it right. Have the sense to invite portfolio submissions. Take the time to meet with the designers. Choose a designer, for Pete’s sake, and then dig into your mason jar and find some damned money to pay them for their work. And if you don’t have money, and can’t pay a professional, and decide to hold a contest… then swallow your pride, PICK one, and use it. Dammit.
Again, a smattering of projects… it has been tremendously busy here at the press since last October. A lot of that has been design, rather than printing. It has been a goal of mine to expand the design side of the business and refine (rather than simply reduce) the printing side of the business. That means, ahem, turning some work away on occasion.
A couple of big projects were rebrands. The first one was an RFP that I was awarded for rebranding the Olympia Food Co-op. Kind of a big deal for my one-person studio. It was a long process to get to final. I’d like to say that they picked the very best-designed or forward-reaching logo from the many options I offered, but with the selection process used, I think we came out with a strong logo that was on the conservative side, as it contains the germ of the old logo. Through survey results and staff feedback it became clear that comfort, familiarity, and a non-representational approach annoyed the fewest people. I knew going into this process that a consensus organization with deep roots in Olympia history would perhaps be a little less agile in embracing an imaginative rebrand. Nonetheless, I’m still excited that now the new logo is accepted, we can move on with other more creative aspects of the rebrand including implementing the color palette, typefaces, illustrations and other design conventions into the Co-op’s design products. The Outreach team is excited to move ahead and get down to changing signage, the newsletter, advertisements, business cards, t-shirts and the lot.
I also had the opportunity over the winter to redesign the logo for my sister’s bamboo company, Booshoot. I designed her first logo back in 2002, and though she moved on to a second logo for several years, she was having trouble getting a great third logo out of a Seattle design firm. She asked me if I’d like to give it a whirl. I jumped at the chance. They were very happy with the very first concept I sent to them. Sometimes it’s quick and efficient like that. Sometimes, it’s not. I have already implemented the new logo for Booshoot in several design pieces, and have enjoyed printing the business cards for about fifteen executive employees.
I’m hip-deep into another Oly rebrand, which has been a very interesting study in itself. I hope to provide an overview of the process another time. Let’s just say… each client is different and has different needs.
A variety of other fun projects are below. Just a sample from what has been a very, very busy fall, winter, and spring!
CLICK to see the gallery images in full size…
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A couple of weeks ago, our coolest and local-est newspaper Olympia Power and Light published an article by Lesli Baker written about the press. It’s always nice to get some press because it helps get the word out and I always see an increase in my business afterward.
It also gave me a little swoon to see one of my pictures of Heidi the Heidelberg grace the cover. Isn’t she just a beauty?
I’ve had lots of great comments from people and even a postcard from Arkansas! Since I am alone up here most of the time, it feels good to get some feedback.
Olympia Power and Light — “Rosewood is the new Helvetica”: Jami Heinricher on the art of letterpress.
I am just getting back into my exercise wheel like the fluffy hamster that I am after spending a stupendous week in southeast Alaska with my sisters and my dad and his wife. One of my sisters, Jackie and her husband Guy own a beautiful house in Tenakee Springs, off the coast of Juneau. We spent six of seven days on their boat fishing for salmon, crab, shrimp, halibut and managed to catch those as well as red snapper, true cod and rockfish. Every day we saw humpback whales morning noon and night. I saw two full breaches… it was absolutely stunning to see huge whales IN THE AIR. There were pods of orcas and Dahl’s porpoises and seals crisscrossing our path, too. It was like a crazy National Geographic expedition where the scientists eat a good portion of what they find and stay in a five-star hotel every evening. Narrator: “This magestic and complex creature turned out to be incredibly delicious later that evening, sprawled over a crisp romaine salad with a delicate herb dressing and a sensitively-chosen bottle of pinot gris.” It was such a crazy bounty and I suppose once in awhile it’s alright to partake. National Geographic meets Food Channel.
Incredibly fun. Thank you, Jackie and Guy.
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How time flies. Best of intentions, but busy, always busy. Blogging never seems to wind up at the top of my priority list. However, there are some favorite projects I’d like to share. I am just going to give you a visual sampling and catch up that way.
The spring has been a bit disappointing around here. The garden is really mixed. Some things prosper, others might as well get torn out of the ground. The weeds seem to be doing VERY well. But I still consider myself very fortunate to have my little bit of ground to work, and appreciate the general fertility of this planet which through all the climate disruptions, pollution, and other factors that make it appear that humans want the extinction of species more than anything, it perseveres… it does everything it possibly can, because it seems it cannot do otherwise.
I wish we could say the same about humanity.
With all we know about ourselves, we can’t seem to behave thoughtfully on a global scale. My facebook status a few weeks ago said “Aggregate behavior tends toward the irresponsible.” I do believe that. Each in our own little way, take a little more than we return to the system (as Americans we can hardly do otherwise), and this all adds up to one gigantic problem of scale. And since it appears that part of human nature involves taking for yourself what you fear others will take in your stead, it takes an extraordinary human emotional intelligence to relinquish the many, many conveniences and easy benefits our global culture has to offer. When corporations are falling over themselves to offer you every imaginable delicacy, convenience, style variation, and fetish object (like my iPhone)… when the system is geared to siphoning money off of every transaction, no wonder it relentlessly encourages us to spend, spend, spend. Prop this thing up. Inflate the bubble.
I just love how we were recently schooled on the nature of the housing “bubble” and admonished that we did not take our lesson from the tech “bubble”, when the whole economy IS a bubble, and the prosperity of everyone, it would seem, depends upon every one of us expelling as much hot air into it as possible, even if we must borrow a king’s ransom to do so. Truly, if we all trimmed ourselves back to the absolute essentials, the whole thing would explode and come crashing down like the Hindenburg that it is. Think of all the people whose livelihoods depend upon our common agreement to pursue extravagance. That is, almost every one of us. Letterpress is certainly an extravagance.
It just makes me want to be thoughtful about what we really, truly need. I know this is a hackneyed sentiment at this point… even consumer culture has fetishized these notions and printed them stylishly on t-shirts and notepads and calendars that fly off the shelves, enriching someone. Yet, the question remains. It is irreducible. What do we really, truly need? If our communities were intact and observed the sort of interdependence that is natural to our species… if we took care of each other, healed each other, fed each other, fixed each other’s wheelbarrows, played with each other, and legislated the fact of our importance to each other, we would need very little else.
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I recently had an opportunity to print for David White, a new friend whose design work I greatly admire. I first became aware of David’s work when I saw a beautiful catalog he produced for a company called Espresso Parts here in Olympia. Much later, I found that he was also the designer for the Olympia Coffee Roasting Company, a sister company to Espresso Parts, (and my total fave coffee roaster in Olympia, incidentally.) I finally introduced myself to David one day when I overheard him talking about letterpress and thought he might like to know about The Sherwood Press.
David is not only an extraordinary designer, but he is also a cider head. I don’t know if that’s an expression, but it should be. He makes cider, seems pretty obsessed with the whole idea of cider, and has helped to form the Northwest Cider Association. He collaborated with a fellow graphic designer and cider-maker, Lars Ringsrud, on a promotional coaster for the association. He describes Lars as an east-of-the-Cascades version of himself. They are both cider-heads (still don’t know if that’s an expression), both extremely talented graphic designers, and both worked at coffee roasting companies. Weird, huh?
Well while the coasters were in the works, Lars also decided to get some business cards printed for himself. His design is elegant, perfectly balanced, and absolutely suited to letterpress, and therefore a joy to print. I’m hoping that he will send more of his great work my way. It’s such a pleasure to print for a great designer.
I have to say, that I like cider, too, and was even thinking about building my own cider press with the help of a very capable friend this summer. (Or watching him make it, while saying appreciative things constantly, is probably more realistic.) I haven’t gotten around to it, because while I am pursuing a variety of household and homesteading projects, I must admit that the cider press is about halfway down on the list, which is dishearteningly long. Maybe by the time I start to get substantial numbers of apples, I will get around to building that press. Then, I can be a cider maker, designer, and, well, at least a serious coffee drinker.