The making of the Stevens Pass anniversary logo, and its hidden memorial

stevens-pass-75-years Near the end of my 11th season designing for Stevens Pass, it came time to design a logo, badge, emblem… that encompassed the resort’s 75th anniversary. Little did we know how much life would change by the time it was done. The project ended up being one of the most emotional designs I’ve worked on, and one that ultimately ended in me taking creative work from someone else and not telling anyone.

Although this project had more iterations than most projects – including eight major redesigns – that’s not what set this apart. It wasn’t that this was a big anniversary, or that there were a lot of thoughts on what it should be. Those were all factors, but not the major hurdle. The challenge came as we lost the Ambassador of All Things Rad – Chris Rudolph. He was the effervescent 30-year-old marketing director for Stevens Pass.

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Jack Nichols Photography

I obviously don’t read my own blog that often. For a while I was lucky if I posted once a month. Some categories have clearly seen more posts. Clicking through the navigation, I realized this People section hasn’t seen a new post in eight years. I put this here to showcase cool things from people I know. Give me a little slack, Facebook did take off after I started this…

Anyway, because it’s his birthday and he recently setup a Facebook Page, I wanted to showcase Jack Nichols Photography. I do have some friends that are full time photographers. They do amazing work. Jack is a software engineer, and I always think it’s cool when very technically minded people create great visual work – be it video, painting or photography. Here’s some samples.



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Design is not simply aesthetics

Not everyone is a designer

This may seem obvious, but not everyone has design skills and talent. It doesn’t matter which aspect of user experience (UX) we’re talking about, not everyone can do it. Most agencies have a process in place to assign tasks based on skills required. Good agencies are capable at managing external clients, setting expectations, requirements, roles… and enforcing them.

When the client is internal to an organization, sometimes the lines can be blurred. A good process prevents conflicts. Without such a process, occasionally the client can attempt to be the designer.  Continue reading

The problem with poorly executed image compression

Century 21 Ad Campaign

Actual Century 21 Ad – unedited.

There was a time when image compression was both an art and a science. In the late 90’s I remember new tools coming out, like Fireworks, which gave us better quality images and smaller file sizes. Options like JPEG or GIF, baseline or progressive, selective or adaptive or… mattered. Many people have forgotten this, and many never knew how important it can be.

Often now we just make images PNGs, and we’re more concerned about latency than data transfer, so we often use sprites.

Century 21 Real Estate seems to be running an ad campaign. Unfortunately, one of the final steps in executing such a campaign – image compression – was mishandled. Undoubtedly, the process to create the campaign contained executives, product experts, at least one copywriter, photographer, makeup artist, model and graphic designer.

The problem with poorly executed image compression is that it renders all of those roles rather pointless. The execs and experts could be replaced by untrained monkeys. The copywriter & designer could be replaced by a three-year-old with a crayon. The photographer could have been replaced by a two-year-old with a camera phone from 2003, and perhaps some lighting tips from his mom. Continue reading

The time for changes is over when files are sent to print

I don’t do a ton of print design anymore, but one thing I’ve noticed is that often clients have a misunderstanding of what “proofs” are for, or how the workflow should work.

The short: When files are sent to print, the time for changes is over. The overall purpose of printed proofs is to catch printing errors.

The purpose of a “proof” is to spot issues like low resolution images or other potential printing errors. Catching typos at this stage, although they really should have been spotted sooner, is acceptable. Anything else that’s flat-out wrong is usually also acceptable to change. Some examples might be:

  • Wrong name cited
  • Credits/disclaimer incorrect or missing
  • Content being trimmed or position of folds miscalculated

What shouldn’t be open for discussion:

  • Copy change (short of typos, grammatical errors…)
  • Messaging – If you wrote “Buy one, Get one free!” it’s not time to change your mind and say “Buy one, Get one 50%” – all “mind changing” should occur before files are sent to print.
  • Swapping photos/artwork. If the wrong image was used (eg a FPO was not replaced) or if the image show it will not print well, then those items could be swapped.

What are the drawbacks of making excessive changes to the proofs?

  • It will delay the process more than if the changes were made during internal proofing (ie printing black & white samples for review.)
  • The cost increases. Most printers will charge for additional proofs.
  • Printers go through a fair amount of prep before those proofs are printed. They have to repeat those steps, and if they’re making changes along the way it can complicate the process, increasing the chance something gets missed.
  • Printers will likely give you less leeway next time. Rather than telling you they need five business days before delivery, they may tell you they need 10. And if you deliver files eight days out, they may tell you they will not meet your delivery deadline. Whereas if you show that you did you work upfront, and that their process will be efficient, they will allow you to give them less time.
  • As much as printers should have their process together, having to deal with multiple proofs can lead to mistakes. I’ve seen it happen where the wrong version of the proof gets printed.