Production design: environment, identity, and swag…
I believe visual design is far more than logos and icons: it is a systematic way of reinforcing the message through the design of the communications: a reader of the annual report of a photography organization should feel the energy of the community outreach before reading a single word of the document; the poster for an educational reform non-profit should compel the viewer to want to learn more; a speaker on business ethics should reach the hearts and minds of their audience with their presentation (and handouts).
It is this sense of purpose which I seek to find and reveal in all the design work I do.
And that manifests itself in the details. The little flourish in the divider line which ties back to the client's identity. It is the combination of the vision of the project’s goals with the execution of the production details that really makes a project shine. I've found that this attention to detail bring the biggest client commitment to the result, and ultimately the most success to the project.
infographic & data visualization design
Historically, much of the material from a house demolition—due to tornado damage, or site upgrades—ends up in a landfill, although recently more and more is being ground up for recycling. It turns out that reusing building materials from a house can be 20 times more beneficial for the environment, pound for pound, than recycling!
This is where Better Futures Minnesota comes in: their work crews will actually disassemble buildings slated for demolition. But they needed help explaining why this was so good.
Because everything used in a house was harvested, processed, and manufactured—from the lumber in the walls, to the metal in the mailbox, its manufacture takes energy, causing direct and indirect emissions. Each item reused is one less to be manufactured, offsetting the carbon that would have been emitted. Better Futures salvages what lumber, bricks, windows and doors, and even appliances that they can for resale in their ReUse store.
As a first step, I took on the task of showing the environmental case for deconstruction and reuse over traditional recycling or landfill. Using project data from environmental analytics partner Ecotone Analytics and standard conversions from the U.S. EPA (the so-called WARM report), I compared the carbon emissions of the three basic demolition techniques, based on actual project averages, with that of a typical car over the course of a year. They are both abstract measures, but at least it provides an association and sense of scale that anyone can understand.
Informative, but not impactful. The goal of a second, much larger, poster is to help Better Futures to explain what they do, and why they do it, to their various constituents, including bulding contractors and Minneapolis city officials.
To make a meaningful statement, I decided to “construct” a typical south Minneapolis bungalow home, determining average quantities of windows, framing lumber, appliances, etc. based on Ecotone data from several past projects. With the data in hand, I explored ways to visually communicate the meaning of the data in a way that would connect with the viewer. The “exploded view” was the option most preferred by the client.
In addition, I explored the appropriate color palette and visual style, also expressed in mood boards, to aid the discussion and critique. Green would be the dominant color, matching expectations for a presentation on “green” alternatives to building deconstruction.
To create the diagram itself, I used a combination of the 3D drawing tool Google SketchUp, and Adobe Illustrator for the 2D elements such as text and background texture. This poster would only succeed in engaging interest, and bringing the viewer in to understand the details, if designed to work at different distances—and at different levels. And it is in the details where this information really starts to work.
This poster, initially designed to be 24" x 36" and later increased to 36" x 54" at the client's request, is designed to work at several different distances and information levels. The headline and key element of carbon savings are very large, while the relatively small size of individual element descriptions encourage the viewer to get in closer. A legend at the bottom helps explain how each part of the house is listed.
This was an ideal project on many levels. I had the great opportunity to meet with the President & CEO of Better Futures (on the right in the picture above), along with the founder and past President, while presenting the initial design of the poster at their facility. This lead to a great discussion, refinement of some of the wording, and an increase in the poster's overall size. And working with Ecotone Analytics to provide the data and additional information really made this infographic poster work.
Relating to climate change
Although most people understand that global warming is a very real problem, it is still very hard, even for the experts, to relate to it personally. As this example shows, I’ve leveraged my background in science to create an infographic which helps connect the big picture of climate change to personal experiences. Working in both textual and visual levels, Twin Cities temperature data is used to show a shift of high/low temperatures, especially in the winter, from what people (especially Gen X’ers and Boomers) might remember from their childhood to today. The shift is a real thing that people can relate to if they know where to look, which is the purpose of this graphic. My goal my was answer the question, “Glaciers may be melting, but what does this mean to me?”
This analysis pulled data from the national weather services' archive, and involved a custom curve fit (a double sinusoid with forced matching of end conditions) to smooth out the variability. Although curve fitting (the basis of modeling) can lead to problems with predictions (how often are the weather forecasts wrong?), it is an extremely powerful method to smooth out variability in situations where dependable underlying assumptions exist.
In this way, and without “dumbing it down,” I present weather data from the Twin Cities to show that, despite the wide variability that exists day-to-day and year-to-year, there is still a definite trend toward warmer temperatures, especially in the winter. By comparing data on a generational level, I show the differences between the “back yard childhood memories” of Baby Boomers, Gen X’ers and Millennials.
It is this way that I believe any information, even complex technical and scientific information, can be relayed in a way that is both true to the technical source, and useful for the targeted audience.
Change the Change: campaign to reevaluate the educational system
Change the Change bus shelter signage, a conceptual project designed to engage people in a discussion about changing the educational system in the United States (to one with less emphasis on testing and more on exploration).
This project evolved out of a slogan-only poster into something with multiple layers of interaction, and a meaningful call to action.
Not for Lack of Trying—Screen Printed Poster
For the final 2016 group exhibition of the MCAD Graphic Design Certificate Program, I created the event invitation as a screen printed poster. Based on the collaboratively created word mark, this poster was designed to both convey event information, as well as the vibe of this exhibition of graphic design work.
Special thanks to colleague and classmate Emily Stevenson for her help in printing these 100 posters, including tests on a variety of black poster paper and the production runs of this single color white-on-black design.
Storehouse of Treasures
Posters are really a chance to have a lot of fun! The Storehouse of Treasures info poster was such a personal project, with a “twist.”
5 designs by other artists were selected because of their influence on me. The design of my the poster showing these other works is heavily influenced by the spiral fold design, both on the front and especially on the back.
The back of the poster dives deeper into one of the designs, the jazz cover, exploring the typography, colors, and historical influences that may have led to the design of the album cover.
After printing and testing a minature dummy, I set out to create the final 24" x 24" poster project, with a special “twist” fold.
Print Making ( more at PaulNylander.com)
To bring a more human element into my designs, I’ve been exploring and integrating traditional analog production techniques, including designing and producing screen printing and letterpress projects, intaglio, etchings, engravings and gravure. By working with areas of solid flat colors, and how that informs the design, I find it a fun way to explore composition in design.
My fine press book Isolation is a perfect example combining design and printmaking.
Identity system for PhotoMidwest
The Center for Photography at Madison was up against the challenge many member-oriented non-profits face: stagnation. To attract a wider audience, the organization needed a refresh—to something newer and bolder—a new name, reflecting its newer expanded mission; and a new logomark to provide an anchor and inject more energy into its marketing.
The old logo was black & white (reflecting the groups focus on fine art photography), but I believed something with more color would give associated collateral more pop, especially in accents: early mood board work moved me toward a golden background and complementary blue.
My ideation quickly focused around the idea of cameras, settling on an abstract camera concept of concentric circles (including lens effect) and brackets delineating camera body. It was also important to incorporate the PhotoMidwest name, and make sure it appears as one unit: outlined and solid text provides some separation, while still unifying the name.
The rebuild of the website, in addition to renewing the visual design and much of the content, also required a structure that the organization would be able to maintain on its own. We settled on SquareSpace, which allowed a design which maintained the generally black & white fine art feel, but allowed pushing larger imagery and color accents.
Other associated collateral soon followed, including t-shirt design, and business cards.
Biennial PhotoMidwest Festival
At the same time as launching this new name and image, the organization was gearing up to host its biennial festival, the PhotoMidwest Festival. I decided it would help the organizational branding to create a separate mark for the festival which would showcase the new name (set in the same type and colors) but also separate it from the overarching organization.
Reflecting the rural Midwestern subject of the festival itself, I created a 3 circle logo with a tractor tire, a camera with partially closed aperture, and a windmill. This then became the identity for the festival on its website, program guide and other related collateral.
PhotoMidwest Annual Reports
In addition to the identity work for PhotoMidwest, I pushed to create the annual member report for PhotoMidwest, the non-profit photography organization in Madison, Wisconsin.
In these reports, I pulled all the necessary information together, and created a display system with a large cover image. Although the content is the same, the reports shown here are actually updated “rebranded” concepts, as the organization had not yet changed it name at the time of these actual reports.
Environmental and collateral design for imc DataWorks
imc DataWorks is a subsidiary of a German manufacturer of test & measurement instrumentation and software which is used primarily in mechanical component and system testing in a variety of research and development work, largely in the transportation and power industries.
As a cofounder of the company, our original naming concept borrows the German parent’s name (imc = integrated measurement and control). Establishing a distinct, but associated, identity from the parent was an important part of the of the U.S. strategy, and influenced many design decisions, including the addition of the “DataWorks” moniker to give a U.S. identity unique from the parent, in the notion of a sort of “Skunk Works.”
In addition to my work on customer development and training, I was also responsible for communicating the company’s ideas through print and digital product brochures (the U.S. versions, and ultimately a hand in the international versions of the parent) and a variety of associated collateral; and even in the office itself, reflecting the organization’s dark blue with orange accent.
Trade Show Design for imc DataWorks
Trade show presence is still tremendously important to promoting the products in this industry, and I had the opportunity to design several different booth display systems for imc DataWorks.
Over the years I helped the parent company start to realize its own international voice, and this can be seen in the last two iterations of the trade show booth graphics. The challenge was that we needed to create a new booth, but we were still a year before what would become the new international branding had been finalized. So the booth was designed to accommodate an easy change of fabric panel graphics.
Following a basic need to house product demonstration stations, the last “DataWorks” branded booth mirrored the website and brochure designs I was creating at the time. This was an entirely new structure with a 20 x 15’ footprint, based on aluminum framing and stretched printed fabric graphics.
And a hanging overhead sign. The main wall panel is 12’ high, was a fun challenge working with such large graphics.
In the final design I did for imc / imc DataWorks, the booth coverings were updated to reflect the new international corporate colors, and stark look and feel.
Explore My Projects…
Design is process of creative problem solving as applied to challenge of controlling how a user (i.e. a reader) interacts with their environment (i.e. the book). While Book Design isn’t writing, editing, or illustration, it affects the success of all three. It is part production minded, and part visual story-telling.
I encourage you to step through my recent projects and learn for yourself how I have applied a design process to a variety of different challenges. Or jump back up to the overview.