Case Study: Character Projects

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I recently had the pleasure of working with my very talented friend, Jonathan Silberman, in helping him launch his latest venture, Character Projects, a vintage lighting and hardware store, period home design services, and real estate specializing in historic homes around northeast LA. This project was very close to my heart, as it took place during our very own search for an arts & crafts-era fixer under Jonathan’s excellent advice and guidance. Talk about getting to know a client’s business! Having first-hand experience allows me to say, without reservation, Jonathan is my top recommendation in all aspects of home restoration with a sensitivity to period accuracy.

Branding for a service business can be tricky, especially one where the customer stewardship will become the most memorable experience for clients. Lucky for the visuals here, Jonathan pairs service with meticulously restored pieces that speak for themselves. At first we created a wordmark that was much more demonstrative of vintage style, but ultimately we decided to back off and go clean and timeless, allowing the products to do the talking.

Cards & Tags
Cards & Tags

Since Jonathan has such rich imagery to show, we went with moo cards, so he could have as many alternate photos as he wants, adding new sets as needed. This business started as an online store, but grew into a physical studio within a few months. Jonathan picked out some nice tags for pricing and product info, and we worked up some stamps he could use in marking these and other materials, such as tissue, stickers and shipping packages.

We gave him a site that allows for changing content on the home page, while putting a spotlight on each of his services on separate pages. His store links directly to Etsy, where he enjoys the overlap of social shopping with targeted demographics there, so all he has to maintain is changing content, which is easy and intuitive on the WordPress platform. Once his site was up, he was all ready to start promoting the opening of his store in Highland Park.

Character Projects is off to a great start, with a small but effective package of identity materials to help Jonathan grow his business. Visit Character Projects online and dare yourself not to consider remodeling your home.

+ See the full project here.
+ Read more case studies here.

If you’re just starting a new business, you’ve got a clean slate to take it in any direction. A starter branding package can get any new venture off the ground, targeting the right materials for promotion without anything you don’t need. Say hello anytime and let us know how we can help.

Case Study: Rebranding Descanso Gardens

Main Identity Set

It started innocently enough, with a simple request to create a set of rules around using their wordmark and design a style guide around it. Just a guiding document for internal departments and external contractors to follow for a consistent presentation of all Descanso Gardens print matter. As with many things, though, that which appears simple has many unanticipated questions and discussions ahead, so we started as we always do, with discovery!

In this case, we did a full identity audit of the past few years of print matter, sorted by type [main stationery set, organization communications, membership campaigns, fundraising efforts, field guides, event collateral, signage], mounted to boards and affixed to the walls for all decision-makers to review and discuss. There’s nothing like seeing everything you’ve put out into the world all in one place to really see what works and what doesn’t. My approach is to collect everything and prepare the boards, along with best recommendations ahead of time, then present to the group and see where the discussion goes. Separately, we did a brand audit interview worksheet for stakeholders to fill out separately, to make sure the forward look of the organization was in line with the mission and the values of their membership. This is often where the best insider advice comes out, when people have the chance to speak anonymously.

Much of their core identity was very strong, it just needed a bit of refinement and standardization. Descanso Gardens’ main mission is to steward the land left by the Boddy estate, which includes in greatest number an impressive collection of camellias and native oak trees. We revised the leaf cluster used previously to reflect those of coast live oaks, and gave them a simple boxed wordmark in their signature green that keeps visual continuity with their previous setup. For social media, everything is further simplified, but the 3 elements are all there.

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Expanding to the full identity set, we have a standard logo setup, address lockup, leaf cluster placements for bleeds and non-bleeds alike. Descanso previously used an extended color palette reflective of the 4 seasons, which we modestly updated and applied to the business cards, specialty communications and membership campaigns.

Finally, the set was complete, and guidelines could be compiled into a style guide. We’ve covered everything from the basics of logo usage and type styles to organizational messaging and positioning. For the in-house departments, we have the basics of 1-sheet and flyer layouts, and for off-site contractors we have lock-ups and callouts and color specs for all color spaces.

Style Guide

We’re really pleased with how everything turned out, and looking forward to seeing how they use it in the coming years.
+ See more of our work for Descanso Gardens here.
+ Read more case studies here.

Is it time to whip your identity into shape? A brand & identity audit can get everything on track and moving in the right direction, and it also happens to be what we do. Say hello anytime and let us know how we can help.

Case Study: Chevalier’s Books Brand & Identity

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I’m excited to be a part of revitalizing a neighborhood bookstore in their 75th year of operation! Chevalier’s Books is a mainstay of Larchmont Village and beloved by the locals, though they’ve been struggling in the age of Amazon and changing times. Enter new owners and dedicated bibliophiles Darryl Holter and Bert Deixler with great plans, energy and funds, to give Chevalier’s just what it needs to come back in a big way.

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Our main goals with redesigning this store brand was to appeal to everyone who loves books, bookstores, and keeping LA history alive, and give them a comfortable space to shop, meet, and convene for readings and events. The space is inviting and comfortable, with a great selection and an expert staff. We gave them a very literary wordmark, with a sign-off that reiterates their founding year, which is easily versatile enough to adapt for their 75th anniversary. To follow it out, we have matching business cards, gift bookmarks, merchandise bags, and an economically friendly canvas bag.

CB_canvas-bag

For the web site, we wanted to give them all the blogging and writing capabilities they’d need to promote readings, signings, intimate concerts, book club meetings, and membership, bringing some of the store experience online. The wordpress platform is simple enough for employees to update and integrate with social media, and the look packs all the information they need into a very clean, streamlined layout.

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In the first few months after re-opening, Chevalier’s was reporting record sales numbers in the holiday season. I’m excited to see where they take things in the coming years. In the meantime, check them out online!

+ See the full project here.
+ Read more case studies here.

You don’t need to be a new business to need a new brand & identity. Most of our clients are looking for a refresh & recharge approach, integrating previous efforts seamlessly into an elevated look going forward. If this sounds like just what you need, let’s talk!

case study: re-imagining natural curiosities

natural curiosities identity package

For the past 7 months, I’ve been hard at work with Natural Curiosities, a collective of artists and artisans working under the creative direction of Christopher Wilcox in a beautiful studio in the Jensen Recreation Center, here in Echo Park. They have evolved from roots in archival giclée printing and silk screen to application and specimen art, gold & silver leafing, aging and paper treating, and hand watercoloring. They have a specific aesthetic celebrating a time when both scientists and artists were constantly observing and cataloging nature, and they’ve brought this around from archives of illustrations to three-dimensional recreations and objet d’art. With all these new developments afoot, it was time to do a little identity refresh, and refocus the web site on communicating all the exciting news in more of a real-time way.

brand exploration

Starting with research, we did a full company-wide brand exploration. You never know what you might find when you interview everyone in a company, but it was exciting to see how passionate everyone was about their work and the family environment in the art house. They all offered great ideas and perspectives that we incorporated into a report, and further refined into a brand brief to guide the project. Natural Curiosities had already developed a lovely logo and wordmark, so the job of standardizing its ratio, lockup, and uses was easy.

identifying the challenges

The main goals boiled down to 2 things: create a marketing strategy that would communicate the brand philosophy, and design a web site that would serve both the marketing strategy and the clients. as a wholesaler, the clients of natural curiosities are partners and external sales rather than consumers, though the site is used as a catalog to consumers as well, and has to serve both markets seamlessly. The previous site was very strong on products, but needed more of a bridge to the promotional engine and client relations. Research told us that people really love interfacing with the staff and studio, so another goal was to bring more of that experience to the surface of all communications. On the technical side, this site was built in Drupal and would stay in Drupal, but had to become far easier to update by employees.


natural curiosities home page

a dynamic, art-focused home page

One of the first challenges we faced was how to pull specific pieces out of the archive and showcase them. With a catalog as big as that which Natural Curiosities sells, even after a streamlining, we’re still faced with many collections and sub-collections, relying on the user to find them either by browsing or searching. In reworking the home page, we decided on a 5-image slide show, showing a full-screen close-up of any one piece of art that Natural Curiosities would like to feature, with each linking to the appropriate product or collection. Previews from the art house is their way of visually showcasing breaking news or exciting products, which is very easy to update on the fly.


natural curiosities art catalog

the art catalog

Our first task was to map out the art catalog, which was no small feat. Flow charts, graphics and full wall murals were involved! The general feeling was that the categories and collections were not intuitive enough, so we reworked the names, resorted the art, refreshed the overall collection [adding new pieces, retiring others] and stacked it into a grid of highly-colorful art folios to reiterate the sense of archive. This is a main landing page for regular site users, so it has become more inviting, and easier to use.


natural curiosities search & products

enhanced search and products pages

Another section ripe for opportunity was the search function, which wasn’t returning as many results as it could, and showed the results more like data records than art. We installed a module that would perform a wider search, give the user options to narrow the search by category, and suggest alternatives, with results coming in as large thumbnails for quick preview and selection. The product pages have been rearranged to be image first, support information second for visually-driven clients. When authorized users are logged in, pricing and buying options appear here as well.


setting the mood

setting the mood

With clients in mind, we decided to add a design & interior-focused section to put art in context into the spotlight. This is a more extensive slide show which offers Natural Curiosities another way to showcase products, overlay editorial and cross-link styles from inspiration shots to related collections or blog posts. It’s also the first of a few more client-partnership aspects we’re building into the site.


explore & about sections

a look inside

Giving outsiders a look inside the studio, we created a section called explore which is starting out as a video gallery of art processes used at Natural Curiosities. The about section has given more weight to the story behind the formation of the collective, how they operate now, and the influence of the place as inspiration. Also featured in the about section is a retail location search, for retail customers looking to buy, and all the FAQ, shipping, privacy policy and terms & conditions information buyers may be looking for. These sections have been given the flexibility to grow as the art house has new things to share.


notes from the art house: the blog

a new & improved blog!

As another, more dynamic opportunity for communication, we’ve introduced a new blog with a unique layout from the rest of the site, and an editorial calendar to fill it with sources of beautiful design inspiration, product showcases, video posts and news missives. The blog is going to be a pivotal point of the communication strategy, as another place to bring clients into the natural curiosities experience.

+ Read more case studies here.
+ See more of our work for Natural Curiosities.

Case Study: A Modest Makeover for Tony’s Darts Away

tony's darts away web site

We recently gave Tony’s Darts Away a little makeover online and wanted to share it with you. If you’re familiar with the All Craft, All Draught, All California bar in Burbank, you know they’ve been making a name for themselves as celebrationists of some of the finest California craft beer. Before we even got involved, LA weekly cited their site in a top 5 of LA restaurants others could learn from, so we wanted to keep it as accessible and informative as it’s always been, with more muscle on the back end and make it more easily expandable as their web presence grows. Their contact info & hours are built into every page, their site pages have been sorted into simple main categories, and we’re porting tweets into a sidebar so they can announce events and late keg tappings after opening.

tony's darts away, interactive beer list

Similar to what we did for Mohawk Bend, we gave Tony’s Darts Away an interactive beer list to make browsing, searching and sorting easy. On the back end, this list is easy for employees to manage and update, so the menu stays updated all the time.

tony's darts away, beer styles library

Something unique that has garnered this site some attention is the beer styles library where visitors can research and read tasting notes and anecdotes on all kinds of craft beer styles they might encounter at Tony’s and beyond. Click a style in the sidebar and the text loads in the center. We also set up the brewers list the same way, so if you’re curious who’s who and what’s what, take a look!

Finally, we did some streamlining to their menu workflow, to integrate menu layouts that allow for styled updates they can print as needed and then paste right into wordpress. The main idea here is, we want to make it easy for them to get done with setup and serve us all some beer, which is exactly what will happen if you drop into Tony’s. Visit the full site: tonys.la

+ Read more case studies here.
+ See more of our work for tony’s pubs.

Case Study: Mohawk Bend Brand & Identity Development

mohawk bend brand & identity

As the saying goes, I love it when a plan comes together. When I first talked to Tony Yanow about his newest venture, Mohawk Bend, it was nearly a year ago, midway through the Ramona Theater’s renovation process. While we’d be working from scratch design-wise, Tony had a very clear idea of who he was serving and what the attitude and voice of Mohawk Bend would be, which made the preliminary research and brand brief development really easy. He also had an interior design team working with the raw materials of the space and adding beautiful custom furniture in light wood and warm, orange tones. From the outset, we knew the setting of where the identity would live and how we could make it stand out appropriately within that environment.


mohawk bend logo

logo development

Mohawk Bend has a few different areas of focus, but it’s first and foremost a celebration of craft beer from all over California. The most exciting and innovative of these is the hops-forward west coast IPA, and in that vein, the hop flower became a main feature of the logo.


mohawk bend icon system

mohawk bend business cards

building an identity

Beyond beer, though, their plans included California-sourced spirits, a bottle-free selection of California wine, local / organic food that spans the vegan-omnivore spectrum, and a low-waste operation in the kitchen. Tony really wanted an icon system that could represent each of these aspects and work interchangeably with the main identity, play out on the web site, and associate with core staff’s areas of expertise. We developed a color palette and selection of icons that swap out with the hop flower in the logo for specialized uses, and become indicators for each area of the web site. For future signage and events, they’ll have the versatility of growing this icon system with new developments.


mohawk bend web site home page

keeping it simple & highly useful online

Creating the web site was a fun exercise in brainstorming all the things we hate about restaurant web sites and putting them at the top of the list of what not to do. No flash, No pdf menus, No hard-to-find location information. Tony was always very clear about the voice of Mohawk Bend, that it’s craft first in a simple and honest way. We were still excited to talk about all the great things Mohawk Bend does, however, so we built all of it into the about section, so the information is there without being an obstacle on the home page. Instead, a styled twitter widget announces daily specials and events, with clear postings of hours, location, directions and a list of menus: get the info you need and come on over!


mohawk bend web site interactive beer list

the interactive beer list

One particularly fun feature is the interactive beer list. During our preliminary talks on functionality of the site, Tony said “What I’d really like to have is a beer list you can sort by any category—brewery, style, alcohol volume…” And so we thought about it, and worked out a solution that integrates directly with WordPress, allowing all the searching & sorting a curious beerophile would want. Click any column header to sort by that column, or use the search field to isolate beers containing your search terms. We also translated everything to a nice mobile site, so anyone can find just what they’re looking for [even search the beer list] on the go.


mohawk bend menus

beyond design: a workflow that works

Behind the scenes was the real challenge: developing a workflow system that would allow daily menu updates in print and online to be done easily and quickly by employees. A system that still uses nice typefaces and formatting in print, but doesn’t require any coding online—and all simple enough to execute well without a design education. Once we settled on a menu format, we built in-house layout templates using paragraph styles that would transfer heading tags and basic bold and italic formatting to WordPress. The WordPress interface is extremely user-friendly, with a visual editor, so everyone has taken to it quickly. To keep the carbon footprint low, the menus are printed on Neenah Environment 100% post-consumer waste recycled paper.


mohawk bend extended identity

and they’re off…!

As I’ve watched this roll out in action and seen the Mohawk Bend staff make it their own, I’m proud of the system we created together. They’ve been able to switch around the menu formats easily using feedback from customers, and we’ve been able to build more of the identity into ads, stickers, signage and support collateral. Best of all, they are all super-nice people to work with, so we’re always happy to walk down, have a beer, find out how everything is going, and help them work out their next adventure. Bottoms-up to Mohawk Bend!

+ Read more case studies here.
+ See more of our work for Mohawk Bend here.