Adventures in Branding

Mike in shades, 2016

Our small city of 135,000 has over 7,000 businesses, 5200 of which have between 10 and 100 employees. I can vouch for the friendliness of the people: hardworking, affable and unpretentious.

Is it a paradise for a business-friendly branding company like Graphic Design in Barrie?

I started this blog a few years back, mainly to comment on design issues and little else. Once my lovely wife and I began thinking about our move from Aurora – further north to Barrie – with the attendant risks and opportunities, more just came tumbling out.

As my Twitter profile says: One brand conscious gentleman takes on weighty issues like modern design, local / social marketing and boomers on the brink. I couldn’t have said it better myself.

A Meaningful Plan for Social Media Goals

7 Tips to Take Social to the Next Level Well, here we are in 2012, and social media is all the rage… but NOW WHAT? Here’s an intelligent answer to that question from Erick Mott at iMedia Connection. As we all thought many years ago… content is king.

Graphic Design in Winter – Colour and Typograhy

Winter Progams at the Aurora Cultural Centre, designed by Mike Beard, Graphic Design in Barrie, 36 Harrison Crescent, Ontario L4N 7R9

Brrr! Chilly winter is a tough palette, all grey and threatening skies. Or bright blue sky and white snow… after Christmas a winter palette leaves few choices.
So I was surprised when the Centre asked for the yellow headline, and surprised that it worked so well in this context. I love working with Gibson, a great, clean font just released. And what could be more apt? Designed by a Torontonian! Suits the Centre well and always sets beautifully. One luxury seldom afforded the typographically inclined is a full set of weights. In the case of Gibson, a beautiful, spare Light weight that just seems to sit effortlessly at the top of this brochure cover on the left. Like Winter minus the chill.
Well, almost….!

Typographic Design Owes a Lot to Steve

SteveJobs at Stanford University, speaks of how he put typography into the MAC

No, not his graduation, he never graduated college.

But in the first of three vignettes he tells how he dropped out, sat in at a campus calligraphy courses and, years later, plugged all his knowledge of font and legibility, kerning and small caps… into the Mac. Then Microsoft copied it and since then we have had beautifully texted pages. Steve’s sense of typography was installed into the design principles of our generation’s previously type-challenged technology.

Thank you, Mr. Jobs.

Image Blends Iconic Architecture with Graphic Design

Aurora Cultural Centre Membership Brochure illustrates the many ways to participate in the success of the Centre. Designed by Mike Beard, Graphic Design in Barrie.


Aurora Cultural Centre Membership Brochure illustrates the many ways to participate in the success of the Centre. Designed by Mike Beard, Graphic Design in Barrie.

Sometimes creative work just seems to go right, unforced and natural. That’s the way it is with my work for the Aurora Cultural Centre. The iconic design of the Church Street School struck me right off as a architectural logo, meaning that the recognition factor of the school had integrity and cultural intent written all over it.

To date I’ve done a small series of brochures like this one, featuring an ever widening set of learning opportunities for the good citizens of Aurora. Guitar, Painting, Wood Carving, Lectures… even historically themed birthday parties where kids can dress up and go pioneer.

So I think the building serves well as a sign posts for what is offered within, and I am glad to offer and in my way, communicate a small part of it all.

In this case it’s the perfect fit.

Why Apple is a ‘design brand’.

apple-nano

Simple. Refreshing. Iconic. So it’s 2007 and Apple’s IPod Nano commercial is the just coolest thing. Check out Fiest’s even better, perhaps definitive version on the Letterman show.

The music, perfect. The product, so easy. The singer, so fresh.

Apple takes a chance here, choosing a relatively unknown Canadian folk singer. But she is just so right. And this makes her career. Apple is claiming the entire digital music space, and does it so sweetly. Apple’s deft brand touch is so assured.  

The spot displays an uncanny yet genuine knowledge of what’s undeniably revolutionary. It’s what this commercial never says that’s so important. For a more recent, clumsy imitation see my post ‘bombastic, overblown, pretentious’ on the Blackberry/U2 commercial.

RIM, what’s the thinking behind this?

Bono sings ‘every generation gets a chance to change the world…’ Wow, big words. Stadium shaking, grandstanding rock ‘n roll. Big sound, big star, big music. No clever irony here, eh?

But what this says about Blackberry and RIM branding is somewhat less. Somewhat blatant. Somewhat over the top. Somewhat safe. No one ever accused Blackberry as being a ‘design brand’.

Coming as it does in 2009, is this RIM commercial screaming ‘ME TOO’? We like ‘YOUTHFUL’ music too, SEE?? I guess Canadian RIM couldn’t choose a native Canadian singer, as Apple had already scooped them with Fiest, but at least someone fresh and unheard? Someone ‘new’?

And without iTunes or a reasonable RIM equivalent, there’s simply no rationale for any of this.

Is this when Blackberry lost it? I’ve always thought so.

Graphic design: things that can be clicked.


Remember that old quiz show, ‘Pyramid’? It really brought in the ‘things that can be …’ categories.
What could be more ‘clickable’ than a mouse? Another of those design ideas that just works and then… Designer: get out of the way. This was for the home page of the Ontario Long Term Care Association and clicking it access a host of learning pages. Love working for the group… they understand big, legible type as do seniors everywhere.
The idea that seniors are not adequately represented on the internet is increasingly a thing of the past as net savvy boomers reach their senior years.

Graphic Design: Button, button, what’s in a button?

When the internet first caught my eye, in 1994, I struggled with the slow speeds and the evident prejudice against graphics. I understood this, as the net was a slow beast ‘in those days’ and we all, as visual people, tried to get more for less. Narrow pages and little buttons. I resisted.
I thought why press a button that looked like an envelope that evidently meant ’email’. That’s exactly what email wasn’t! THERE’S NO ENVELOPES IN EMAIL!!! Or stamps with wavy lines. Or pens with little fingers. Why not, I thought, print the word ’email’?? And with a wink and a nod toward my typographic roots, I began producing typographic finding aids for the web.
For my efforts I was told, ‘You are not an iconographic designer.’ And web designers ran off with all sorts of little images of icons that ran, smiled, and vibrated. Here’s one of my efforts that’s clear, that promotes the message and branding of the impending document, and is rather large as buttons go. It was made to draw attention within a busy page. You decide. Don’t try pressing the button, although I’m betting you want to. :-)

OLTCA addresses the looming crisis in long term care.



Sometimes a picture really is worth a thousand words. In this case, a straightforward messaging piece for the Ontario Long Term Care Association, the designer (me) simply states the case and then quietly withdraws. There are some subjects that are difficult to render, that resists the natural urge to ‘design’ and long term care may be one of them. There is simply no way to lighten the tone without appearing to undermine the somber message, slight it or gloss over the rather tragic messages contained within.

A fascinating B2B social media success story

nullHere’s a pretty neat success story in an off-0the-beaten-track location: Overseas shipping. Mark Schaefer presents easy to read, well laid out content that walks the reader through just how ‘ShipServ’ went about hitting their targets in an early experiment that worked. From the ‘grow’ website.

How Google makes a bundle . . .

Interesting to see just where Google scores the most real cash, and you guessed it, wealth begets wealth. Insurance, Loans and Mortage are the top ad-words, collecting over half of Google’s money. Here’s a handy link for further, FREE SEO exploration: Wordstream’s Keyword Research Test.

Also of note, with Google’s recent embrace of everything local, these topics are indeed local. Most demand a working knowledge of place and at least a personal connection to a broker. ‘Broker’ is a term that really means a nearby professional in whom I am willing to invest with ‘trust’ Perhaps, it is Google who is the broker here, to their great advantage.

Graphic Design: Why I love type.


When I designed this brochure for the Aurora Cultural Centre it was the pictures that came with the opportunity that struck a chord. And what could be better? A sunny day in a beautiful town in front of a minor architectural wonder. These images do not come without a bit of reverence. Storybook, perhaps.
But the shots told the story of how much fun one could have and be a bit of help to the community too. There’s certainly no lack of things to do and things that just have to be done in a venture like the Centre. Volunteers are needed in every capacity. For me, the task became one of emphasizing an already great story with typography – and then, as a designer – getting out of the way.
I’m always looking at new fonts and the extreme narrowness of this ‘grotesque’ caught my eye. I thought it might be interesting to throw in some colour as well. So in came the blues and teals. The basic beiges and sage in the background mirror the interior of the newly-renovated Centre.
As these brochures must literally shout out louder than the competition on brochure stands around town, most of the pertinent information must be contained in the top few inches.

AURORA CULTURAL CENTRE Membership Brochure, designed by Mike Beard, Graphic Design in Barrie, 36 Harrison Crescent, Barrie, Ontario. L4N 7R9

Three simple pages telling three simple related stories. Three ways to enhance your experience with the Aurora Cultural Centre.

Already, the ‘complete’ Google + catalog of videos



Now the whole google+ saga is available on video. This, just a couple of weeks after google+ launched, it’s social media foray is ready for it’s ENTIRE SAGA to be told. Will this be the Twitter and Facebook ‘giant killer?’ Find out now. Go here. Coming soon to a coffee table near you: GOOGLE in Pictures, 2011, Limited Edition. Just my little joke. No offense to you, big Goog. ;-)

Apple’s great running gag . . .

Laurel and Hardy. Burns and Allen. Abbot and Costello? How about… Mike Nichols and Elain May? Well, there is a little bit (at least) of Penn and Teller in these remarkable commercials. You know, comedy with that little bit of extra bite. No pun intended. Really.
Here’s a set of commercials that not only heralded the Apple renaissance, but in a remarkable twist in the marketing script, caused one in PC’s too. Apple’s still running, and no ordinary ‘pc’ has caught up yet. See the whole run at Adweek courtesy of Tim Nudd.

. . .with mac guy and the hapless pc.

So much has been said about Mac’s commercials, starting with ‘1984’ and moving swiftly (or so it seems in retrospect) to the candy swirls of iMacs dancing. More recently, Apple morphs into breezy, fresh Fiest singing “One – Two – Three – Four…” So simple. Just another revelation.
Starring John Hodgman and Justin Long, all 66 ads were directed by Phil Morrison of Epoch Films for TBWA Media Arts Lab. Canadian indie star Fiest got a significant kick out of the whole iPod thing too.

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