Intention, Cohesion, and Dinosaurs

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Before striking out on my own with Collective, I worked with multiple agencies and in-house design departments. One of those companies was Very Good Chairs, Inc. (VGC.)* As you might guess, they make very good chairs. The company recently celebrated their 100th year of business. They have a reputation for doing honest work and creating good quality, no-nonsense wooden chairs. Their marketing materials usually look a little something like this.


chair example

*Names and identifying details have been changed to protect the well-meaning but horribly misguided.


One day I was asked to meet with one of the sales managers to discuss an upcoming ad campaign. He had lots of ideas. Here are a few of them, verbatim:

“Our current stuff is boring.”

“I don’t like the wood backgrounds”

“A new chair store just opened up down the block. They know how to market. Their logo is FIRE! People love fire! If we don’t put fire in our new campaign, nobody is going to buy chairs from us.”

“The new campaign also needs some patriotic elements.”

“My son really loves dinosaurs right now. Dinosaurs sell.”

If the sales manager was solely responsible for that campaign, this is what it would have looked like.



I can’t blame the guy’s enthusiasm. This is fun stuff! But let’s pause.

Ignore the fact that fire would actually set the chairs ablaze and that dinosaurs have nothing to do with chairs. Personal tastes aside, his ideas didn’t make it out of that conference room because they simply weren’t consistent with the brand.

Imagine that for generations your family had purchased all of their chairs from Very Good Chairs, Inc. Then one day you see a billboard for VGC with fire, dinosaurs, and eagles. Best case scenario: you don’t recognize it at all. Other likely reactions: you see all the fire and confuse the billboard for that of the new chair shop down the block (essentially paying for the competition’s advertising, classic) or you recognize the company name but (understandably) assume the store must have new owners and (likely) new values. All of these scenarios are bad for business.

VGC survived for 100 years by keeping a cohesive brand. They valued craftsmanship, hard work, and community. Those values showed through in every part of their business from the way they interacted with their customers to the simple signage in their retail store.



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My favorite web designer/adventurer/spirit animal, Emily Thompson of Indie Shopography, says it best, “consistency breeds legitimacy.” Amen.

Consumers want to do business with brands they know, like, and trust. The number one way to build trust is through consistency. It’s about more than just slapping your logo in the corner of an ad. Look for it in your online presence, your print materials, in all the little details like price tags or to-go bags. Build a cohesive brand by using the same fonts, colors, textures, and photography styles in all of your materials.

That doesn’t mean every ad or brochure should be repetitive and predictable. Cohesion ≠ boring.

Here’s how one of the most valuable, recognizable brands in the world does it.


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on the web



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on Twitter



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on YouTube



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on Facebook



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on Instagram



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on television



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on Tumblr



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in the air



They’re everywhere. And they keep it fresh with only two colors and a couple of typefaces.



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A less “corporate” example of cohesion is the Puffin Chalk series of books by the amazingly talented Dana Tanamachi. She was commissioned by Puffin Books to illustrate and hand letter a series of well-known children’s books. The finished products are easily identifiable as a set while staying super strong on their own.




Tanamachi is really well known and respected for her intricate chalk illustrations. She produces each by hand with chalk at a large scale. Once completed, the works are photographed and resized for digital production. See her in action here:

Puffin Chalk: Peter Pan from Dana Tanamachi on Vimeo.


Whether you’re opening a new business or you’ve been doing this for years, be intentional with your design. Have brand standards in place and use them. Make sure everything you create/post/say/present is in line with those standards. That consistency is what will set you apart from your competitors and elevate your business.


If you have questions about how to create a cohesive brand or how to get yours on track, we’re here for you.

Tools of a Creative Entrepreneur

tools of a creative entrepreneur


Collective has been up and running for a month and a half now. To keep things running smoothly I rely on a handful of resources.  Here are a few of my favorites:


Pen & Paper
It’s not a new app. I’m talking about a literal pen and paper. Even though I’m surrounded by devices begging to electronically store every piece of information in my brain, nothing really beats a sharpie pen and notebook. For to-do lists, sketches, and love notes pen and paper are simply unrivaled.


For every other occasion, there’s Evernote. As you may have inferred, Evernote is a note taking app.

It syncs your computer, tablet, and phone so you have the most up-to-date version everywhere. You can create lists, lengthy notes, graphs, and checklists inside custom notebooks. You can even share notebooks with friends and coworkers to collaborate, share work, and chat about projects.

I use it for everything from my business to recipes and travel planning. I am 1000% more organized since Evernote came into my life. 


iTunes & Spotify
Because music is the most effective pick-me-up during a long afternoon.

I love Spotify for sharing playlists with friends. It’s kind of like the mix tape or burnt CD (albeit less sentimental) of a younger generation.

iTunes is where I store all of my purchased music and catch up on podcasts. I’m still working through the grief caused by the great U2 betrayal of 2014, but it’s hard to find a better digital music and media player.


Google Drive & Dropbox
These apps are perfect for storing and sharing files on the go. Saving a presentation “just in case” before you get in front of a room full of expectant people is always a good idea.


Freshbooks takes the stress out of bookkeeping for my business. It’s more user-friendly than Quickbooks and it sends invoices, tracks time and expenses, and generates reports. It also bundles everything up nice and neat for my accountant at tax time. It’s one of the best investments I’ve made in my business.


I recently started using Buffer for my social media management. You can link and manage accounts from Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, Google+, and Pinterest. I’ve used lots of different tools in the past but I’m really loving the simplicity of this platform. What can I say, I’m a sucker for a clean interface.


My one stop for news, blogs, and information I care about. When Google Reader was discontinued (RIP) I was distraught. I thought I would never love another RSS aggregator again. But Feedly really stepped up and made the transition easy.


I am a methodical, color-coding, shameless planner. You know my calendar is on point. I’ve used Google Calendar and it’s A+ but iCal is more convenient for me since I work from a Mac.


Facetime & Google Hangouts
Only so much can be gleaned from a phone call. And it’s easy to forget that there’s a real, live person on the other end of that email. When I’m working with clients in different zip codes, video chat lets us have face-to-face meetings miles apart. Isn’t technology great?


Adobe Creative Cloud
I saved the best for last. I truly could not do my job without this fine suite of programs: InDesign, Illustrator, Photoshop, Lightroom, Bridge, the list goes on and on.


These are just a few of my favorites. What did I miss? I’d love to hear which apps and tools you’re using. Leave a comment or connect with me on Instagram, Facebook, or Twitter.






Brand vs Brand Identity

I need a logo



“I need a logo.”


When a new client contacts me about a logo for their new business, I send them a brand identity packet with details about working together and pricing information.


“Is a brand identity the same thing as a logo? Are you just trying to confuse me?”


No and no.


The logo is just one piece of your brand identity.


A logo is never seen in isolation. It’s at the top of your website, stamped on your product, or lit up on your billboards. Color, type, patterns, photographs, and textures surround and support your logo. They work together to help clients and consumers know what you’re all about.


Your logo and all of the visual elements that support it: that’s your brand identity.


Here’s a great example that was featured over on underconsideration from designers Rodrigo Aguade and Manuel Astorga. They were tasked with creating an American-style brand identity with vintage and hand drawn influences… and lots of banana leaves.


Here’s the logo on it’s own.


holly burger logo



Now, here’s the logo applied to the brand identity.







Big difference, huh?


A great brand identity is so much more than a cool logo. It has a well-planned strategy and style guidelines backing it up. There’s a market analysis and there are brand questionnaires to be answered before concepts are ever sketched.


Really stellar brand identities never emerge from trends. There’s no competitive advantage in doing what everyone else is doing. Copying someone else’s success won’t bring any more value to your brand. The research and the process are what set you apart and move you forward.


To put it simply, good design adds real value to your business. A business person dresses professionally to meet with prospective clients because they want to make a good first impression. Brand identity design does the same thing for your brand.


brand vs brand identity


So what about your brand?


What’s the difference between your brand and your brand identity? Remember, your brand identity is only the visual representation of your brand.


Think about your favorite restaurant. What makes you go back time after time? Is it the atmosphere, service, consistency, quality, or years of memories? The combination of all of these things make up a brand. The brand is the client’s perceived image and emotional response toward a company.


What are people saying about your business after they leave? That’s your brand.


If you haven’t heard of Johnny Cupcakes, you  have to check out this guy and his stores. He sells t-shirts from retail locations that look like bakeries. He packages them in pastry boxes and plants vanilla air fresheners around his stores to make them smell like frosting. He sells the experience so well that people who buy his shirts aren’t just customers, they’re fans. These people travel from all over the world to camp on the street the night before a new shop opens. I’m pretty sure when people start tattooing your logo on their body, you’ve made it.



It’s impossible to build a brand people love without a brand identity. And a brand identity without a solid brand is useless.


Brand identity was my first design love. I have a solid creative process that gives awesome brands the tools and identity to thrive. If you want to learn more about my process or how we can work together drop me a line.


File Types and When to Use Them


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Have you ever received an email attachment you couldn’t open? Or uploaded a photo online that looked super fuzzy? What’s going on?

There are so many different file types. If you don’t work with them daily, how do you know which you should be using? I’ll break down some common graphic design file types and help you figure out when you should and shouldn’t be using them. At the end of this post you can even download a free in-depth cheat sheet for future reference.


This is the photo file type most familiar to most people. .JPGs are popular for a reason. Their small file size makes them perfect for easy sharing and email. They’re also super versatile. They can be opened in almost any program.

However, they don’t scale well. In fact, each time you crop or enlarge a .JPG it loses quality. Quality also takes a hit each time you save a .JPG file.

.JPGs don’t allow for transparent backgrounds. So they’re not ideal for things like a company logo or illustration. If you ever intend to place that logo or illustration on a colored background, your .JPG will have a white box around it.



.TIFs are also meant to be used for photos. But, they have much higher quality than a .JPG or a .PNG. The higher quality is going to mean a larger file size too. So they’re not great for emailing or sharing. Like the .JPG, .TIF does not allow for transparent backgrounds. But it will open in most programs.

.TIFs are perfect for professional photos or art prints. Fine artists who scan their work into the computer for reproduction should use this file type for their work.



.PNGs are ideal for the web. They set themselves apart from .JPG and .TIF by allowing transparent backgrounds. Though it won’t scale well, the .PNG doesn’t lose quality after multiple saves.



.GIFs had a real moment back in 2013 when their creator set the record straight about their pronunciation. If you missed that, you’ve probably still seen these guys all over the internet. They’re basically moving photos like this one.

Despite their very low resolutions, .GIFs do allow for transparent backgrounds and open easily in your internet browser. Use these for web and email.



The .EPS is a vector file type. Vectors are magical because they can scale up or down forever without losing any quality AND they allow transparent backgrounds. They can only be opened in programs like Illustrator or Photoshop, but they’re necessary for any professional application of logos or illustrations.



Another very common file type is the .PDF. They’re perfect for business use because they are so versatile. They can be saved as high or low resolution for professional printing or easy email attachments. .PDFs automatically embed any fonts and images into the document so you never have to worry about a .PDF missing content when you send it to someone else. They also have the ability to be sent as editable files. That means you can send someone a .PDF form and they can fill it out right on their computer to email back to you instead of printing, filling out by hand, scanning, and emailing.

.PDFs can be opened using the free version of Acrobat Reader.



.AI is the file format of Adobe Illustrator. This is where your logos and custom illustrations are born. Like the .EPS files, these allow transparency and will scale infinitely. They can only be opened in Adobe Illustrator.



Adobe Photoshop files will have the file extension .PSD. They can only be opened in Photoshop, but they also allow transparency. Anything created in Photoshop is made up of very small rectangular boxes, or pixels. When pixels are stretched the file appears fuzzy or pixelated. For this reason, you should only edit photos in Photoshop. Never create a logo or illustration here.



Adobe InDesign is where a designer brings together photos from Photoshop and illustrations from Illustrator to create booklets, brochures, or any kind of layout for a design project. Like .AI and .PSD, .INDD can only be opened using InDesign.


Collective File Type Cheat Sheet

Click here to download the free Collective File Type Cheat Sheet!