Once a year we take to the skies and drop in on Austin for the yearly gathering that is SXSW Interactive Festival. This year our beloved leader Michael Nieling dropped knowledge on 900+ folks at his 9AM session (we’ll post more on that later). A feat in itself since it seems SXSW’s sole mission is to make you walk, see, experience and (maybe drink) more in 5 days than you think possible. It’s a marathon. It’s a sprint. It’s overwhelming and at times sublime. By day three you can’t imagine continuing on and by day five you can’t imagine leaving. Here’s a recap of our tribe’s trek to a tech fest mecca.
At the end of May, I had the opportunity to host a small, informal lettering workshop at the Ocupop studio. About a month prior, my friend and fellow designer, Manuja Waldia — in the midst of working on her senior thesis project — contacted me about putting something together for some students from MIAD who were interested in lettering.
The workshop focused on basic lettering styles that can be achieved with a dual-ended brush/chisel tip marker. Ocupop provided everyone with a marker, as well as tracing paper to work on. To begin, we walked through a couple Ocupop projects that had an emphasis on lettering and were created by using the same type of marker. Then, went through the basic strokes that comprise an elementary block style alphabet. Everyone practiced these fundamentals, and the remainder of our time together was spent exploring the capabilities of the marker with whatever words were fresh in our minds.
A big thanks to Manuja for helping to make this happen, Nick for taking photos all afternoon, and to everyone who attended!
Since the bulk of our design team is located in Milwaukee, we try to keep up with design events that the city offers. Recently, we’ve become involved in a dialogue series: Designers Talking. Once a month, a designer is invited to exhibit new work, which is followed by a public dialogue the next day.
In April, a dialogue was hosted by me where I had the opportunity to interview designer Adam J. Kurtz @adamjk on his exhibit, This Is Literally Just Paper. Based in Brooklyn, Adam’s clever writing style and charming aesthetic takes a critical look at internet culture. Adam’s work explores the cultural addiction to instant gratification as well as his fascination with tangible objects.
This Is Literally Just Paper, featured a collection of paper scraps that Adam has collected, every week, for over two and a half years in a project called ‘Week In Scraps’(#weekinscraps). The scraps include everything from bubble gum wrappers, Michelle Branch concert ticket stubs to doodles on post-its. The project takes a look at the daily ephemera we generate and how paper goods and designed objects are valued. Kurtz sold merchandise (Check out his super adorable gift shop!) during the Designers Talking opening reception and any money received was stamped and pinned up alongside the rest of the printed matter, becoming part of the exhibit.
The following day, the public was invited to join in a conversation with Adam to discuss the themes in his work and the exhibit. Watch highlights from the discussion here. Designers talking with Adam J. Kurtz from Designers talking on Vimeo.
An added bonus was that Chris and I had the opportunity to contribute poster designs for the Designers Talking series that are available for sale. Our only restrictions for the poster were the title of the series and a couple of Pantone swatches. In the end, our posters ended up looking pretty different from each other. Chris found inspiration in check-lists, along with the simplistic beauty of hand-painted signage. My design considered the relationship between creative thinkers, joining together in a conversation.
Designers Talking is organized by Milwaukee designer, Nate Pyper and is hosted at The Pitch Project, a gallery and studio space located in Milwaukee’s Historic Walker’s Point. Designers Talking will begin it’s second cycle of visiting designers this fall. I can’t wait!
Break it down. Break it apart. Make an app for everything. Create a user experience tailored for only three specific actions that end up with one fantastic result. Take the damn web apart so we can measure every type of interaction and sell that data to anyone who’s buying. It’s no longer an app that can do everything. It’s an app that does one thing, and kills it. We are watching the web being broken down into bite sized bits. Laptops may never die but your phone is your best friend and it’s warm glow your window into all that is you.
The conversation started earlier this year when Facebook, Google, Foursquare and other “giants” started pulling their services apart to make condensed/specific mobile experiences. Some good, some great and some so-so. The argument is that when things become distilled and all goes as planned that hooch is potent, tasty and gives you a good buzz. So ten years spent building massive laptop/desktop experiences are giving way to less a buffet of options and more a single serving of exactly what you want to eat. The buffet is being is being broken down and The Royal Fork is going out of business.
While I’m a fan of progress and an early adopter of sorts I do like to question the reasons for massive movements in thinking by large tech companies. Granted, competition is the greatest motivator and so is cultural hyperbole fed by media machines that project a public demand that may not exist. In the end I feel it’s about measurement. More precise data around specific actions. The tighter the definitions the greater the interpretation of the whole. So if I know why you do three specific behaviors in a row within a specific silo (read: unbundled app) I can better predict behavior across a larger user-base.
Yes, yes it’s all in the name of providing a better experience for the customer. And I agree that responding to usage data and adjusting/pivoting/tweaking a product makes immense sense. But I can’t help but wonder what happens when things become so unbundled and there are so many options and so many services have been broken down to only their ingredients are we giving away too much about the measurable granularity of our lives? We probably are and when my shirt talks to the internet my doctor will know I’ve been smoking again.
Last summer we were very excited to help with the Drones & Aerial Robotics Conference. In the past we had worked with the organizer Ben Moskowitz on a few different projects for one of his other gigs, so we couldn’t say no. Chris and Nick developed the ID along with the print and merchandise. Then collaborated with our web team and DARC’s team to get the conference site up and running. Both sides were really please with the way all the elements turned out on top of having a great time working together!
DARC Badges. Ocupop designed. Ocupop worn.
In an awesome move, the crew at DARC extended an invite to come attend the show so Michael and I jumped at the opportunity to hang out in NYC for a few days seeing some friends, walking the city, and learning about flying robots.
Part one of the conference focused on public policy and the use of drones for commercial versus recreational purposes. The panels and talks were fascinating featuring speakers from around the world. Topics ranged from the use of quad and octocopters in film news and sporting events to privacy issues concerning recorded flyover of private property. It was extremely educational couple of days.
Hackathoners getting down in their final hour.
The second and final part of the conference was a Hackathon at NYU’s ITP Lab. Teams were given the afternoon to come up with various hacks for the Parrot AR Drones 2.0. We didn’t participate in the Hackathon (skateboard lessons in Central Park for a friend couldn’t be turned down), but we did swing by for the last couples hours of hacking and final presentations. There were some fantastic ideas. The teams had programmed the quadcopters to climb invisible stairs, paint graffiti, and (my favorite) deliver a beer across the room with the route being crowd sourced via Twitter. Both the ITP facilities and the teams were incredibly impressive.
Huge thanks to Ben, Dean, and Chris for inviting us out. We hope this becomes a regular event for them.
Michael and I pretty much have to rent an extra room for footwear when we travel together.
We helped @susyjacks pick out her first setup and then went to cruise around Central Park for a few hours.
Lanona has been an ever-evolving and compelling project for us. Founders of Lanona, Ben Ransom and Michael Nieling (Ocupop Creative Director) are childhood friends, which has made for an untraditional (and extremely beneficial) relationship allowing for team-oriented, close collaboration. The project first began during the winter of 2012, but was put on hold while Ben continued to build a relationship with the shoemaker and dig deeper into the market research. Fast forward to December of 2013, Lanona was back in motion and we hit the ground running.
Having the opportunity to begin with a raw idea and craft it into a finished product has played a crucial role in building the brand. Throughout the month of January we revised the original identity, re-drew the tread pattern, created artwork for leather stamps and hand embosser, developed the un-boxing experience, shot initial product photos, laid out the website and developed additional artwork for the first collection, The Travelogue Series.
Many times, the work we do as designers is only visible as pixels within the confines of various device screens. With Lanona, we got the best of both worlds — creating exciting content for the web, while also seeing our work come to life in the form of tangible objects. Being able to try on the shoes, wear them around allowed us to not only visualize but also feel the quality of the product we were designing for reinforcing our thoughts on the brand.
Passion, authenticity and quality. That’s what Lanona is all about, and hey, we can get behind that. Check out Lanona Shoe Co. for more info on the company and snag a pair of these incredible shoes.
April 22nd, 2014 Posted by Amy Leibrock in Content
I got my first email address as a college senior — and could only check it at a computer lab. I sometimes feel like a dinosaur when I think about how vastly different it is to be a writer now than it was when I started my career. (The first magazine I worked for was a pasteup!) But really, there’s no more exciting time to be a “content creator,” as writers, editors and journalists are called these days. Here’s why:
1. Feedback is everywhere.
It used to be that the only input writers got from readers about their work was from letter writers with too much time on their hands and the occasional “reader survey.” Today, you can’t write a grocery list without someone commenting on it. That’s great. Why? Because knowing our readers are on the other side of the keyboard makes us work that much harder to produce interesting, insightful, accurate work.
2. Brands must value good content.
Writers aren’t the only ones who can be called out on their $&#! these days. Brands are even more exposed to online criticism through social media, where a simple tweet can turn into a PR nightmare. The result is that everyone — from a food truck to a multi-national corporation — needs to be more authentic. And how does a company do that? Through good storytelling that provides value, not hard-sell ad copy dressed up as a blog post. And that’s exciting to writers because good stories write themselves. If you think your company doesn’t have any good stories to tell, ask a writer; she will find them. If she can’t find any, then you may need to rethink your business.
3. There are unlimited ways to tell stories, and counting.
The digital age has exploded with outlets for communicating. So after deciding what story to tell, the challenge becomes figuring out how and where to tell it. For a nonprofit that wants to educate and inspire change, it might be through infographics on Pinterest; a manufacturer might use Instagram to give an inside look at how a product is made. A garden supply store might make a series of how-to videos. Thanks to technology, for every story, there is a way—and usually a much more interesting and engaging way than ever before.
For the second year in a row, Ocupop has had the opportunity to work with Dairyland Dare in creating the event poster for their annual cycling race held just a couple hours west of our MKE studio in Dodgeville, Wisconsin.
Each year, Dairyland Dare provides a theme to focus the design work, in the past these themes have referenced historical design movements. For 2013 the theme was chalkboard typography —score. In addition to the poster, Dairyland Dare wanted their new look featured across all of their collateral. We designed everything from the cycling jerseys to finish line banners and even pint glasses. Because the design would be used in a number of different ways, it was important for it to be extensible. Sampling typography from the poster, we developed a pattern which was implemented throughout the collateral.
This year, the folks at Dairyland Dare outdid themselves with the theme inspiration. The goal was to celebrate the arrival of the ninth consecutive year of Dairyland Dare’s cycle race, taking place on August 9, 2014. Working with the theme ‘Elixir No. 9′ (9th annual! Get it?), our team took inspiration from late 19th century tinctures, potions and bottle designs that could cure you of all your ailments, much like an invigorating 100K!
With our inspiration and content in place, we set out to develop a cohesive marriage between lettering and illustration that spoke to the era where products were celebrated for their grandiose benefits. From the design of the floating banners, winged wheels and even the subtle ornamentation—we strived to represent the magical properties of Elixir No. 9.
With the race approaching, we are eager to see how our designs look racing across the Wisconsin hillside. To find out more about Dairyland Dare visit their website.
We had the pleasure of working with the University of Washington to create an identity and website design for their new program, The Tech Policy Lab. This program is an interdisciplinary collaboration that aims to enhance technology policy through research, education, and thought leadership. The lab received initial funding by Microsoft in 2013 and is lead by accomplished professors from the university’s Law, Information, Computer Science and Engineering programs. Their goal is to produce impartial research and educational materials around technology policy on areas of focus including big data, augmented reality and the Internet of Things.
Ocupop was responsible for creating an identity that was fresh, exciting and innovative while staying in line with the UW’s brand guidelines. As we do with all identity design processes, we first built a list of keywords that represent the Tech Policy Lab’s core values. Here are a few: Innovative, New, Exciting, Technology, Neutral, Collaboration, Cyberspace, Privacy, Protection, Regulation, Surveillance, Censorship, Analysis, Investigation, Authority. We then built a collection of images to act as inspiration and visual vocabulary to aid us through the process. With all of this research, writing, and imagery in front of us, we were then able to begin sketching and concepting logo designs. We knew what the identity needed to “work,” so from there it was just a matter of execution. Some of the evolution process is shown below:
Our solution shows strong reference to both U and W letterforms, giving it an academic feel while reinforcing the University’s existing branding and positioning the program as a reputable authority. Overlapping elements were something we continually came back to during our design process. These elements exhibit the crossover between areas of study within the Tech Policy Lab as well as the issues they address. For example, the overlapping ‘document’ shapes seen in the logomark speak to technology vs. written policy, free speech vs. censorship and public vs. private information. The areas of transparency illustrate ideas of collaboration, privacy, protection, and censorship. While there are always two sides to the argument, the Tech Policy Lab remains as a neutral authority facilitating discussion around these issues.
Once we had a strong identity solution, we began tackling the design and development of the Tech Policy Lab’s website. They planned on frequently updating a lot of areas within the site so our development team built a WordPress theme from scratch to make almost every single content area fully customizable.
At Ocupop, we pride ourselves on working with organizations that are not just great to showcase in our portfolio, but who are making a positive impact in the world around them. Tech Policy Lab is doing just that. Proud to help the brilliant team at the University of Washington as they continue their hard work and innovative research on technology policy.