3 Reasons I Love Making Content in the Digital Age

April 22nd, 2014 Posted by Amy Leibrock in Content

content is king

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.

2013 Logo Roundup

April 15th, 2014 Posted by Chris Walker in Identity, Logos, Work

As we are never quite able to keep the portfolio section of the site up to date, here is yet another cop out update – your semi-annual Ocupop logo roundup! Enjoy…













Adventures in Dairyland

April 9th, 2014 Posted by Grace Blevins in Identity, Illustration, Lettering, Typography

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. 

Preliminary sketches for DD 2013

Preliminary sketches for DD 2013

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.

Poster and jersey design for the 2014 Dairyland Dare

Poster and jersey design for the 2013 Dairyland Dare

The 2013 Dairyland Dare finish line

The 2013 Dairyland Dare finish line

2013 Dairyland Dare Pint Glasses

2013 Dairyland Dare Pint Glasses

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!

Inspiration for the 2014 Dairyland Dare poster

Inspiration for the 2014 Dairyland Dare poster

Sketches! Preliminary poster development.

Sketches! Preliminary poster development.

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.

Poster and jersey design for the 2014 Dairyland Dare

Poster and jersey design for the 2014 Dairyland Dare

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.

Tech Policy Lab Identity

April 1st, 2014 Posted by Nick Krusick in Identity

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.

The Process
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:

The Solution
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.

Tech Policy Lab Identity

Website Design
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.

Tech Policy Lab Website design

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.

Creating Infographics That Matter

March 25th, 2014 Posted by Abby Lindstrom in Illustration, Infographics, Sustainable America, Work

With the flood of information available online today, it’s more important than ever to make your messages clear, cohesive and meaningful. That’s why information graphics are becoming so popular—when done well, they can cut through the clutter, crystalize complex topics, and make a visual impact that resonates with readers. And with social media trends veering more toward visual content, infographics have a good chance of being seen, shared and living a long life on the social web, as we’ve found with the graphics we’ve created for Sustainable America, a nonprofit focused on educating the public about sustainable food and fuel issues.

Compelling infographics are more than just overly designed charts and graphs. They create relationships between data and explain issues in a clear and interesting way. Everyone absorbs information differently, and an infographic may appeal to someone who might otherwise look past a lengthy article. With so many important issues out there that would greatly benefit from increased awareness, we’re proud to have played a part in spreading some of these messages and hope our infographics have been a catalyst for change.

The Process

As stated above, infographics are much more than just beefed-up charts and graphs. The main purpose of an infographic is to construct a clear narrative that turns complex information into digestible content. Sometimes this means quantifying an inconceivable number by breaking it down to relatable examples. It could also simply be breaking a complicated concept into smaller examples, or the opposite—collecting small examples to explain a large one. Either way, it all usually follows the same process.

It starts with an idea — either an interesting subject or angle we want to cover or new, exciting data being released. Then, we do more research and fact collection. Once we have enough data and ideas to work with, we organize the content and create relationships between facts. Finally, the design process starts, although these steps often overlap.

After the framework is put in place, we comb through the information and pull out pieces that could benefit as visual examples or be replaced with an image or icon. It is important at this point to unify everything with a similar style and color scheme.

For designers, every infographic provides new, exciting challenges. It is an opportunity to take information and decipher it into a new form that helps people visually understand and remember an issue while also creating something that is aesthetically pleasing.

Examples & Impact

Here are a few infographics designed to streamline complicated processes into simple, visual guides.


Here are a few infographics that transform complex calculations and statistics into tangible examples.


Here are a few infographics that visualize statistics.



Milwaukee’s 20 Most Creative: Michael Nieling

February 25th, 2014 Posted by Laura Waldman in Press


Michael Nieling was featured as one of Milwaukee’s 20 most creative people by Milwaukee Magazine! The article is incredibly gracious, we couldn’t have asked for a more glowing write up, and though it makes him blush, the description the author gives of Michael seems pretty apt: ‘Ocupop’s owner, creative director, cat wrangler for a roster of employees from Honolulu to Brooklyn, skateboarder, former zoology major, unicorn admirer, former MIAD instructor and spiritual descendant of Paul Rand, operates on a different plane.’


With an impressive spread of recognized creative individuals, the 20 Most Creative Milwaukeans are honored for their unique and authentic talents. From renaissance rapper to playwright, and acclaimed chef to psychologist — not to mention a robot engineer, ballet dancer, architect and gymnastic biker — Michael is in great company. We couldn’t be more proud to have such an awesome and talented leader. Cheers to Milwaukee’s best, and cheers to Michael!

Burton’s ‘Learn To Ride’ Program

January 17th, 2014 Posted by Michael Nieling in Lettering, Logos, Work

We are proud to share a project we recently worked on with our old friends at Burton – the rebranding of the Burton Learn To Ride program. At its core, the goal of Burton Learn To Ride is to introduce more people to snowboarding and spur growth of the sport. This exhaustive global initiative includes education and instruction programs, rental and retail products, branded experiences, camps, and terrain at hundreds of resorts and shops throughout North America, Europe, and Japan.

What at first glance might seem a purely aesthetic exercise was originally founded on a thorough investigation into language and brand architecture. The Burton Learn To Ride program was a long-standing, successful effort executed on multiple continents, but with growth (and time) had come significant confusion. Years of programs, products, and lexicon had evolved both inside and outside the company; Learn To Ride included products branded as Learn To Ride, LTR, Progress Your Ride, Progression, etc. There was also more advanced equipment, programs, and parks referenced under Progress Your Ride, Stash, and others. There were Riglet programs for toddler riders, programs for women, teens, and more. And all of these things, though part of the Learn To Ride universe, were all collectively, officially, branded under the banner of Experience Snowboarding.

Working intimately with the team at Burton, Ocupop was able to distill the expansive Experience Snowboarding ecosystem down to a foundation of Burton Learn to Ride programs, product, and places, all focused on learning to ride. That is, whether you’re first strapping in or you’re adding a second or third cork to your spins, you can always learn to ride better – and Burton Learn To Ride programs, products, and places are available at every step of the way. Examples of products are boards, boots, bindings, helmets, etc., programs might be instructor courses, teen and women camps, product demos, and resort rental offerings; places include toddler Riglet parts, Burton Learn To Ride beginner to advanced terrain parks, branded natural terrain, and beyond. Additionally, for each of these elements there exists a broad audience from beginner to expert riders and it is vital that ‘learn’ does not imply just rudimentary levels of advancement, but covers improvement at all levels of riding. To this end, we established the augmented brand of Burton Learn To Ride+ for higher level programs, products, and places.

With this clearly defined taxonomy in place, our team moved ahead to create a visual identity that represented the initiative and its mission to reach and instruct current and future snowboarders all over the world. The identity had to visually convey instruction, levels of skill, and snowboarding in general while being globally and universally recognizable.


Our initial explorations coalesced into this, the first fully developed concept.


We then took the richest part of the above concept—the mountains—and shaped them into a mark that better conveyed the messages the identity needed to project. Using representative terrain, we were able to simultaneously convey the three parts of the Burton Learn To Ride universe (programs, products, and places) along with the beginner, intermediate, expert continuum therein. The entire team at Ocupop and Burton appreciated the ‘whole mountain’ experience this logo provides – opening up possibilities for learning everywhere from the bunny slope to park booters to the backcountry.


Our final product. The angles of the lines suggest not only mountains and snowboarding, but skill levels and the challenges therein. Closer inspection reveals detail in an otherwise straightforward mark: the clean, rounded edges of what appear to be sharp lines, the common vanishing point shared between all three lines, the balance and natural ratio of the lines within the space.

We then began the work of connecting this new mark to the existing Burton identity. Burton uses three distinct wordmarks, and despite the strength and widespread recognition of the existing material, none of them were a perfect fit for the mark we developed.

Since we had been working on ideas inspired by classic iconography, we explored the idea of a type treatment based on traditional brush lettering. Talking to the client, we mutually agreed on developing a unique Burton wordmark for the program.


The progression of the Learn To Ride wordmark development, inspired by our original brush lettering and the Small Caps style of Underware’s Bello typeface.


Building on a combination of ideas in the wordmark, the Burton wordmark also incorporated the geometry and proportions of H&FJ’s Gotham typeface to emphasize the strength of the brand name and fit better rhythmically with the program wordmark.


And finally, the final color lockups of the updated brand, in vertical and horizontal format.

This was an awesome project with an incredible group of people involved – and it was all executed quickly and efficiently. We could have never done it without inspired support from internal stewards at Burton. As always, we are eternally grateful for the wonderful people we get to work with on a daily basis…you know who you are, THANK YOU!

How we work

November 18th, 2013 Posted by Laura Waldman in Work

At Ocupop, much of our team works remotely. We have Ocupoppers in Hawaii, Colorado, California, Portland, New York, Ohio, Minneapolis, Milwaukee, Madison—you name it, we are there! We are incredibly lucky to work in a profession that allows us to practice our craft from pretty much anywhere—as long as we have a laptop, an internet connection, and a phone, any Ocupop team member can consider themselves ‘in the office.’ This flexibility, and the quality of life it affords, is a huge part of our culture. In the last year, we’ve had people work for extended periods from beaches in Bali, internet cafes in Nicaragua, and wooded hideaways in northern Wisconsin (not to mention we’re pretty sure Michael is working from the back of his van at some surf spot almost constantly).

A great New York Times article recently highlighted the benefits of working from home. The article says, “proponents of telecommuting…point to numerous studies showing that people who work from home are on average more productive than other workers and that telecommuting cuts down on traffic during peak hours, reduces companies’ real estate costs and improves employee morale, leading to less turnover.” FastCompany and Forbes seem to agree that Ocupop may be on to something.

We do have ‘offices’ in Honolulu, San Francisco, and Milwaukee, but in many cases, on most days, Ocupop works from home – wherever that might be. So we thought we’d give a glimpse of some home studio set-ups for Ocupoppers far and wide. See if you can guess whose desk is whose:


And since we are sharing workspace images, here are some recent shots of the Milwaukee studio:

Milwaukee Studio

SXSW 2013

July 25th, 2013 Posted by Grace Blevins in Uncategorized

It feels like our wheels have been going non-stop since we got back from our SXSW trip, but we’ve finally had a breath to stop and gather some footage together to share. Check it out!

Because many members of Ocupop work remotely, even though we’ve been working together for quite some time through Skype and emails, many of us had never been in the same room together. And what better place to join together than the burgeoning digital environment of Austin’s SXSW 2013!

On our way to the Austin Convention Center

On our way to the Austin Convention Center

Most of our days were filled with inspiring conferences from some of the industry’s most talented, innovative professionals. Because Ocupop is comprised of a healthy mix of developers and designers, we had our pick of topics relating to our fields. Some of our favorite design-related talks were Tina Ross Eisenberg’s (Swiss Miss) keynote, and an LA design agency- Hello Design‘s talk, Do Good Work and Everything Else Happens. Our Art Director and Front End Engineer, Matt was impressed with a talk on the agile software development tool, Scrum. The talk shared the title of the recently published book, Get Agile! Scrum for UX, Design & Development.

For the Junior Art Directors who had never been to SXSW before, navigating through the Austin Convention Center was overwhelming at first. Wading through crowds and getting lost in what seemed to be a labyrinth of a building was no small feat. Not to mention the plentiful distractions SXSW offers, like the trade show room, where bountiful amounts of free swag was just waiting for the taking. In between talks, while we’d search for power outlets and cheap energy drinks, we’d spot Michael who would pause briefly to tell us where we could find a free lunch before running off to connect with one of ten thousand Ocupop friends, clients and colleagues. Slowly but surely we started understanding the lay of the land and by the end of our five day trip, we were moving around that convention center like a bunch of SXSW ninjas.

Fantastic meals were easy to come by with Austin’s fabulous food trucks, offering everything from Korean BBQ to handmade ice cream. A special shout out to our favorite local food spot Frank Purveyors of Artisan Sausage. The hand-painted signage in this place was enough to make our mouth water. Thanks for all the great lunches (and occasional breakfasts).

Some good eats in Austin!

Some good eats in Austin!

At night, we would leave the conference center and all meet up to go experience everything Austin had to offer. On our way to an industry party or comedy show, we would wander through Austin’s 6th St which was always filled with street performers and spectators, which made for some great people watching. Every night we would stay out as long as we could before trying to find a cab to take us to the house we were staying at to  grab a few hours of sleep before starting it all over again the next day. On our plane ride home we all fell into a deep sleep, aching with sore feet and probably a bit dehydrated, but incandescently happy reminiscing about our awesome trip.

Austin's Night Life- Live music, comedy shows and very little sleep!

Live music, comedy shows and very little sleep!

We wanted to get a group shot of the whole Ocupop team to commemorate our visit, but the photo felt incomplete without our Technology Director Jeff who wasn’t able to join us because he was at home with his newborn baby, Thurston. So we decided to use our digital prowess to imagine that Jeff was there with us. There was some discussion as to the best way to go about honoring Jeff- we came up with a couple of executions.

SXSW Ocupop Crew and newest member Thurston Hue Hamlett!

…Sorry Jeff.

“Turn It Off” Video: Behind-the-Scenes

July 19th, 2013 Posted by Nick Krusick in Uncategorized

We are proud to work with Sustainable America, an organization focused on the interactions between food and fuel. One of the non-profit’s goals is a 50% oil reduction in America by 2035. In an effort to support this goal, we recently  executed the launch of Sustainable America’s awareness initiative to ‘Turn It Off’ and end unnecessary idling.

Driver - Turning It Off

We knew a short video would be a great compliment to the campaign – but where would we find lots of parked cars and people with time on their hands?

Miller Park tailgaters lot, that’s where!

If you’ve ever spent time in Wisconsin you know that pre-game tailgating is one of the state’s greatest pastimes. So in May, a few Ocupoppers set out to compile video footage of drivers completing the simple action of turning it off. We roamed the parking lot, speaking with hundreds of people, explaining the mission of Sustainable America and the negative effects of idling. Almost everyone was instantly down for the cause and more than willing to help out with the video project. We then filmed a short clip of participants turning their car key from the ‘on’ to ‘off’ position. Our process was quick and painless (and aided by the free-flowing beer in the parking lot) and we were able to collect over thirty video clips in a single afternoon.



Not only did we compile enough content for the video, but we were also able to educate in the process. We would like to thank all of those who volunteered their time to help us out, we couldn’t have done it without you. And, to top it off, we got to watch a great baseball game!


It’s your turn to turn it off, take the pledge to “Turn It Off “and pass it on! You’ll even get a really cool bumper sticker for pledging!