Thursday, October 14, 2010

Design with a side of Slaw

I admit it I’m a BBQ-aholic and a sucker for good design. Recently, I have started to combine those two passions and have found they have a lot in common in their methods and approaches.

When getting ready to BBQ and design you need to follow a few steps:
1. Plan ahead
2. Prepare
3. Use the right tools
4. Expect surprises
5. Adapt
6. Present the final product

1. Plan ahead
Before you start to BBQ you need to plan ahead. You need to know what you’re cooking, who you’re cooking for and the amount of people you’re cooking for.

In design you need to do the same. You need to know what you’re creating, who your audience is and how big your target audience is.

2. Prepare
Once you know if you’re cooking brisket, pork, ribs or chicken you have to procure the items in the correct amount for the number of people you’re feeding and then prepare it, whether that is trimming the meat, marinating it, rubbing it or whatever.

When you design you have to create sketches, decide colors and prepare copy, along with other things. If you do plan and prepare it makes the whole job much easier.

3. Use the right tools
This one should not be a big surprise.

If I’m smoking 32 pork butts for an event I know I’m not going to use my little backyard smoker that can hold, maybe, six pork butts. Or if I’m cooking for family I’m not going to fire up the huge smoker that can do 32 butts.

If I’m creating a presentation I’m not going to use Indesign or Illustrator, I’ll use Keynote or PowerPoint. If I need to create a brochure I’m not going to use Word, I’ll use Indesign.

Using the right tools will save you time and energy as you don’t have to work as hard when you do.

4. Expect surprises
When I BBQ I always expect something will happen that I didn’t think of. I might not have enough wood, the cooker isn't heating up as fast as I would like, it's raining, or a myriad of other things. Each surprise that happens can effect the time of the cook and the outcome. Planning ahead helps to minimize this but some things are just out of our control and you have to adapt.

In design the client might change their mind, give you the wrong copy or specs, the wrong logo or the wrong images. Again planning ahead can help mitigate these problems but if they do arise you need to be able to be flexible enough to change things and adapt.

5. Adapt
When surprises happen you have to adapt your plan. You may even need to call in help. If your cookers temp is too low due to weather you can add more fuel to stoke the fire. If you find your temperature is too high you know your cooking time will be shorter so you need to plan what to do with the meat if it's done early.

Over the course of a project ideas and needs can change and as a designer you need to be ready to adapt your design to those changes. To correct things the client wants. Design is not about you and your body of work but about what the client needs and wants.

If you receive the wrong specs you can rescale everything to a larger or smaller size. If you have the wrong colors you can change them out.

Communicating with the client will help to ensure you have what you need and also help to make sure the project is exactly what they need.

6. Present the final product
Once the BBQ is made you have to serve it up. When cooking for family it is a simple, put it on a plater or in a bowl and let them at it. If you are doing competition you have have to present it and depending on what type of competition will determine your presentation. In one type you have to serve the judges at your cook site, show them your cooking process and give them a dinning experience. In another, you have to send the meat into a panel of judges placed in a standard box so it looks nice.

Once you have your final design you need to present it to the client. Depending on how you and the client decide it should be presented you may need to mount it on matt board, send them a PDF or give them a color digital proof. But whatever way you do it, it needs to be professional and ready for their sign-off.

As you can see both BBQ and design processes share much in common. Part of the pleasure I find in design and BBQ is the process you have to go through to get to the final product. Each part gets you a step closer to the final and once you get there you can enjoy it and know that you have a job well done.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

What's on your shelf?

Recently My wife and I did some rearranging in our game room. We wanted to move some bookshelves around to make some more room and change where the tv was located. This meant removing all the books off the book shelves and going through them.

We removed a few to donate to local libraries and other places which made more room for the books we kept. It made it possible for me to have a graphic design book shelf where I can actually see what books I have.

I have two binders from HOW Conferences which are full of great info I like to refer back to. The next book is Political Graphics which deals with WWI to cold war era propaganda.

I have two versions of the GAG pricing and ethics guides. These are always useful when trying to price work or needing a contract or other form a designer or artist would use.

Next is a Logo Lounge book, I wish I had more of these. These are great reference materials to see what logos are out there and also to see some of the best logos being produced.

Then there are the two books by Von Glitschka. One is a texture book the other a pattern book. Both are great and they come with a DVD of art you can use in your work, not to mention Von is a pretty cool guy.

There are two books by Jeff Fisher one on identity design and the other on how to run your freelance business. Both of which he has been doing for years.

The other two books I will mention are the Caffeine for the Creative Mind and Group. These are great to get you out of a rut. If your stuck and need a fun project that will help you to think differently about things these two will do it. If you work with a team you can use them for team building excersizes.

The rest of the books are ones that I have found interesting or useful in growing myself as as designer. There is also a section of notebooks and sketch books containing ideas from over the years.

So what's on your shelf? What books have helped you in your design career or have inspired you? Leave a comment about them.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Fly By

One of the many hats I wear at my full time job is a video editor. When we first purchased Final Cut Studio Pro, I played around in it to get a feel for editing and creating special effects. The following movie is the first one I made. It is not perfect but I think it is a fun little fly through.

My idea was, a miniature spaceship was in my office and did a reconnaissance mission from my cube to an adjoining one and back. I used the sound effects in Soundtrack and the effects from Motion to create this 55 second short.


FlyBy from Steve Gibbs on Vimeo.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Operation Thanksgiving Turkey - Identity

Project Type: Identity

Client: Catchafire for Q

Challenge: Create a logo and character to help promote Operation Thanksgiving Turkey (OTT).

One of my hobbies is competition BBQ. The team I'm on does Operation Thanksgiving Turkey each Thanksgiving to help feed needy families in our area. The first year we fed 40 families, last year we fed 286. After two years of promoting OTT with nothing other than some text posters it was decided a logo was needed. The word "operation" brought to mind a military operation and with all the volunteers involved it is almost like one. After playing around with some ideas for a mascot I settled on a turkey - the American symbol of Thanksgiving. I ended up creating Sgt. Gobble.

The logo will work well on stickers that can be put on the bags the meals are delivered in, t-shirts and other items. The mascot will show up on posters and brochures.

It was a fun project for a good cause.

Friday, July 16, 2010



Create a banner to be used at trade shows.

AIMCAL serves as the global forum for the flexible metallizing, coating and laminating industry by providing resources, services and information. AIMCAL collects and distributes information to increase industry knowledge, while fostering an environment that builds relationships and a spirit of cooperation between member companies worldwide (from

The turn around on this was very quick as they needed to get the art work to the printer within 3 days. The banner size was 35x84. AIMCAL wanted to incorporate their logo, a specific tagline and highlight what they do for the converting industry all while being able to grab people’s attention.

Being AIMCAL is an international organization I played off that with the “reel” globe at the top and had it unwinding down the length of the banner to draw people’s eyes down to read the highlights. The client was pleased with the final results.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Building Creativity

LEGO. Those small blocks our kids leave on the floor so in the middle of the night we step on them with bare feet thus waking the household. Oh, the memories. I grew up with LEGO. Never knew a day without it. My parents were studying language in Switzerland many years ago and invited some friends over for dinner. As was the custom, they brought the hosts a gift which happened to be LEGO for my older brother. That was when the collection started (40+ years ago).

Ever since I can remember, I have played with LEGO. It was always my brothers until I turned four. That was when I got my very own set. It was a small blue rally car, probably supposed to be a Fiat. I built the car and played with it, slept with it, did everything with it… for about a week. Then I pulled it apart and started to create new things with it. It was swallowed up by my brothers LEGO, but that was ok. Since that point until much later a birthday just wasn’t a birthday unless I received one LEGO set, large or small it didn’t matter.

My imagination would run wild with LEGO. I built cars, ships, houses, forts, castles anything I could think of. Then they started to release the theme LEGO. Castle LEGO, space LEGO and city LEGO. All those cool parts just waiting to be explored. I would get the set build it according to the directions play with it for a bit and then tear it all apart and build something bigger and better.

My buddies and I would build Star Wars ships (yes, this was before Star Wars LEGO) and reenact scenes from the movies. We would have all out wars with space men being knights and races with cars we built. My brother and I even built a LEGO chess board.

Now my kids and nephews play with the LEGO and when they are playing and I’m around I get, “Uncle Steve will you play LEGO with us?” I’ll sit down and find a bunch of random parts and start building. One Saturday one of my nephews actually called me to ask if I would come over and play LEGO with them. They are in awe of whatever it is I come up with. Sometimes they ask me where the instructions are and I answer, “In my head.”

Playing with LEGO as a kid has helped me to think a bit differently, to imagine and create. It has inspired me as a designer. The LEGO set you get in the box is fun. You can build it, set it on your shelf and play with it every now and then, but the true fun of LEGO is to build the set then tear it apart and make something new.

Design is similar. You have to learn how the basics of design work, how your corporate and branding guidelines work before you can break it apart and create something new. Your basics of design and guidelines are your building blocks that you can put together infinite ways. Like having one LEGO set you get certain bits, but you can create and put it together infinite ways. It takes time, but as you build new designs and play with the blocks you have, you get better.

Got to go. There's a pile of bricks waiting to be turned into something cool.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Design for the Why

Recently I watched a TED video about how great leaders inspire actions. One of the things he said really struck me about advertising. We shouldn't design for the “what” but for the “why.”

I also watched “Art & Copy” which is a movie about advertising and inspiration. As I watched it I noticed that some of the best advertising campaigns and tag lines hit the “Why?” on the mark. A couple of the ads they talk about are the 1984 Apple ad, Nike’s “Just Do It.” and “Got Milk?”

The Apple ad is a classic. Not once does it show the product in the ad but it does show the logo and introduces us to the resonating idea behind the Macintosh, a change, freedom from one system the ability for anyone to use a computer. The rest of the Apple ads hit the why also; i.e., "Think Different" and the "Get a Mac." The why of what they do is behind all their ads.

Nike’s “Just Do It.” got to the core of what they, as a company, are about. Getting people out and exercising, preferably wearing Nike shoes. There ads focused on people doing not on what they wore. At the very end of the ads they showed the shoe. In “Art & Copy” they discuss how the “Just Do It.” phrase effected people and how it gave people the courage to make a change. It motivated them to get up and do “it.”

The third slogan “Got Milk?” goes to that fear you have each morning with a bowl of cereal or in the evening with a rich slice of chocolate cake. The original ad of the guy getting the prize phone call and not being able to answer because he is out of milk hits the mark. They do mention the product but they get to the “why” of the “what.”

Too often as designers we focus on the “what” when we should be focus more on the “why.”

Low Country Gold

I'm on a BBQ competition team and every now and than I get to do some design work for it. Recently we decided to custom label a sauce and I designed the label. Projects like this are great, as I love both design and BBQ and can do my own thing. Ultimately the owner of the team has sign off so I do have to make sure my design fits his vision.

Once we decided to label a sauce we had to come up with a name. We had chosen a mustard style sauce that fit well with the low country style of the Carolinas BBQ. We suggested names to each other as we brain stormed some were decent, Carolina Gold, some not so much, Butt Juice. We finally settled on Catchafire for Q Low Country Gold.

The name sounded good and I figured the hard part was done. I was wrong.

As I approached this design I wanted it to be specific for the product but generic enough to use the design with other possible BBQ sauces, rubs and hot sauces. I also wanted the design to stand out among other sauces. Many sauces have a similar look to the label design so they don't differentiate themselves when sitting on a shelf. Buyers shop with their eyes first.

So I turned to my sketch book. I find I have better results if I work in analog before I go digital for this type of work. I also find I am working through various designs in my head too. During this project I had a brilliant idea for the label when I woke one morning. I sketched it out and then created on the computer. It didn't translate well for the look I wanted.

After a couple more days of sketching and letting the ideas percolate, it hit me. I did rough sketch of my idea so I wouldn't forget it and when I had time later I created it in the computer. At first it wasn't working for me but after looking at it and tweaking it here and there it started to coleus into what my vision was.

You may purchase a bottle of it over at the Catchafire for Q web site

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

To iPad

I broke down and got an iPad. I ended up not getting the 3G one but opted for the 64gb wifi
one. It is very cool. As i said in my previous post it is the device I have been waiting for. It is very slick in it's design and functionality. Yes it is like an oversized iPhone but the extra screen-estate allows the apps to be easier to use. In the Fall when OS 4.0 is released for it it will truly rock.

I've heard many complain about no USB port but honestly I don't see the need for one. I think Apple's solution with the adapter that connects via the charging port is great. You can use it when you need to. The Apple USB port will allow you to use items, other than just a camera, with the iPad. There are also apps out there that let you transfer your files to the iPad via wifi.

I have found using the iPad is one of the most natural computing devices I have used. It may be because I'm used to using the iPod Touch or I'm a geek and love gadgets but when I picked it up for the first time it just felt right. Typing on it isn't bad at all, though I do tend to hunt and peck, it seems to go faster on the iPad than on my laptop.

Will the iPad replace the laptop? Probably not but it will give you a supplemental device that is easier to carry with you and make some tasks easier to do that you would normally do on a desktop or laptop. I don't see doing whole projects or designing web sites on it. But blogging, getting ideas down, sharing ideas with others and tasks like that the iPad is well suited for. It is also great for reading PDFs. I HATE reading PDFs on a computer. To me it's just not comfortable. I got the GoodReader app and it makes reading PDFs like I think it should be. It is like holding a book in your hand and you can turn it to a comfortable angle and read. It is also great for reading comics.

Will it replace your iPhone or iPod Touch? Probably not. The iPhone and iPod are easy to transport. You put it in your pocket and go. You can pull it out just about anywhere and hold it in your hand without any trouble. You can't do that with the iPad. Both have their uses but I don't think the iPad will will replace them for their convenience.


I have gotten a few apps for the iPad that I think are pretty cool. One of the coolest sketch apps out there is Sketch Book Pro. This is a very neat app for drawing and sketching. You can do quick doodles and get an idea down and save for later or you can take your time and do a full blown picture with layers, shading and other effects.

GoodReader is the best PDF reader I have found. It has great functionality that allows you to pull PDFs from various sources including a network, Dropbox, any URL and shared drives.

Marvel Comics app is a very nice comic book reader. There are a couple other comic readers that carry independent comics too but for most of your favorite super heroes you can find them on the Marvel Comic app.

As an amateur astronomer I have found Star Walk to be one of the coolest apps out there. You can set your location and it will show you the night sky, stars and constellations you can view from there.

For weather I use the tried and true WeatherBug. I like the interface and find it very easy to use.

And for Twitter I use Twitterrific. It is a great app and very easy to use. It has a nice clean interface also.

These are just some of the apps I like and I'm always looking for more cool ones to add so let me know which apps you like to use. Overall I love my iPad. I think Apple got it right.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Valentine's Day Card

This year for Valentine's Day I created a card for my wonderful wife. I didn't like any of the cards I saw for sale so I decided to make one. I did a couple doodles and thought, "Oh that would make a cool heart."

I scanned the image into the computer, took it into Illustrator and created a vector line drawing. I then duplicated the one side and flipped it over to make the other half of the heart. It didn't quite fit like I wanted it to so I tweaked the lines until I liked it. I then duplicated it a couple times and created a blue "doily". I duplicated the blue "doily" and made it pink and rotated it 45 degrees. I used one of the sketch brushes on the main heart and turned it a deep red. I then brought the image into InDesign and wrote the inside (No, I'm not going to tell you what it said). I printed it on one of Neenah Papers classic crest, white, linen finish papers. The final product was a hit.

Lion E-vite

Last year the company I work for full time did an event in Animal Kingdom in Disney World. One of my jobs was to create an e-vite for it to be sent to the clients.

After discussing with our event planner what they were going to be doing we decided to feature an African theme. After all they were going to see a presentation of the Lion King.

The central icon for the Animal Kingdom is the Tree of Life, so I knew I would have to have the baobab tree on the invite along with a lion. After thinking about it and playing around with different ideas I decided to go with an African sunset, the animals gathering at the tree and the lion watching over it all. Below is the illustration I created in Adobe Illustrator as my base image.

Using this image I modified it for a flash invite, a card with a gift (the long image below) and reminder card (which had text to inform the clients about the event). Each one worked well by itself but stayed consistent to remind the clients of who sent it and what the event was.

Monday, April 12, 2010

To iPad or not to iPad?

Ok, I’ll admit it. I have been excited about the possibilities of a tablet like personal computer since the Newton first appeared. You remember the Newton, don’t you? (top picture) It was Apples first attempt at a PDA. Despite it’s shortcomings it was the first of many. I actually still have one, but it doesn’t work anymore.

I have been dreaming about having a tablet type device that I could draw on digitally, keep track of my calendar, watch and listen to media and a myriad of other things. My idea for a device was about the size of a clipboard that could be used to showcase ideas, create on the fly and even play games.

Well, in January, Apple announced my dream machine, the iPad. When the iPhone and iPod Touch came out I told a friend, “This is a test product for a tablet device.” Was it a test? probably not but it opened up the possibilities to one.

I have heard and read much of what the iPad can’t do, but as an eternal optimist I am looking forward to what it can and will be able to-do. When I got my iPod Touch the app store was only a rumor but I knew when it came out it would change the way these devices worked. I have the same feeling with the iPad. When OS 4 arrives for it in the fall it will make it that much better.

Will it replace my laptop or iPod Touch? No. It will supplement them. There are things I would love to do on a device between t

he two. But the iPod Touch will remain my pocket portable device, My laptop will be my work device and the iPad it will be my everything else device.

I don’t yet have the iPad but plan to get a 3g one. I am looking forward to seeing what it can really do. Using it as a sketch pad, PDF reader, book reader, movie watcher, music player and so much more.

Once I get my iPad I will let you all know if it meets my expectations or not. So yes I will iPad.

Here are a couple great places to get more info on the iPad:

iPad Watcher


and of course Apple's site