Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Travel Guidebook Redesign Case Study pt 3

In 2004, I was given the task to do a complete redesign of the famous Sanborn's Travelog guidebooks. In my first article, I wrote about the projects problem areas and my proposed solutions. In my previous article, I discussed the cover redesign process. In this article, I will go over the books’ revised structure and page layout design.

My page layout design
The first major change in each Travelog guidebook was to restructure the content. This was a long and arduous project in itself. Sanborn’s guidebooks are a mile-by-mile description that takes the reader by the hand and leads him from Point A to Point B. It reads as if the author is the co-pilot, telling the driver to turn right or left after x-number of blocks. Each “log” mentions stores, restaurants and other landmarks the driver will come across along the way. The original structure caused the reader to flip from front to back, to front over and over again. It started each log at the center of each city and spread out, like a spider web, to the center of each adjoining city, and then continued to the next adjoining cities. The process went on and on until the region each book covered was complete. I restructured the content to follow the most common routes used to travel from each U.S. border crossing, to the heart of Mexico City. All the books heading further south would pick up several routes from the “northern books” and lead to the border crossing with Central America. To do this, I immersed myself for several weeks in Mexico maps and of course the Sanborn’s guidebooks. Restructuring the content, reduced the number of page flips the reader had to do, since now you could follow the main routes from the front of the book to the center of the book in order. When you wanted to go from East to West, you could start from the center of the book to the back. I also eliminated many unnecessary entries and updated thousands of hotel and restaurant contact information.

My map design
The second major change I made that would greatly benefit the reader, was to add a column on the outer edge of each page that contains driving instructions. This column was used to highlight specific notes and memos, as well as leave empty space for the traveler to make his own notations. On the original book design, all the notes and memos were placed within the same body text as the driving instructions and only one page was left at the end of the book to write down personal notes. The real beauty of adding this column was that it did not add any more pages to the book, and it added a great useful feature to the guidebooks. Since I was redesigning everything else, I took the time to also redraw 20+ maps per book of various cities, routes and archeological sites, using Adobe Illustrator.

My inside cover design
Another change I implemented to the interior of each book was to utilize the inside cover. I used the inside cover to house conversion tables that would come in handy for U.S. drivers not familiar with Mexico’s metric units of measures, such as miles-to-kilometers and gallons-to­-liters. Doing this helped to reduce print cost and paper waste, as the original inside book covers were left blank and the conversion tables were provided to customers on separate printed cards.

To help entice the reader to travel more, I added several articles at the end of each book that would feature interesting vacation alternatives, such as eco-tourism in a cloud forest or whale watching off the coast of Baja California. Other helpful resources added to each book were common English-to-Spanish translations and a visual directory of common road signs in Mexico.

It took months to redesign each 200+ page book from top to bottom. The entire redesign process consisted of restructuring travel log segments, drawing maps, editing the entire book, and redesigning the layout and cover art.  I also poured through thousands of images and related travel articles to complete each book. Although I had constant feed back from Sanborn’s president and managers, most of the time it felt that I was a one man Editor/Art Director/Graphic Designer.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Travel Guidebook Redesign Case Study, part 2

Original book cover design
In 2004, I was given the task to do a complete redesign of the famous Sanborn's Travelog guidebooks. In my previous article, I discussed the projects problem areas and my proposed solutions. I had originally intended this topic to be 2 articles long, but as I wrote the text below I realized that there was no way I could do that and keep this article from being overwhelmingly long. So I have chosen to write about the cover redesign process in this article, and I will write about the books’ structure and page layout in my next article.

The original 6 Sanborn's Travelog covers had the same unattractive color combination; Orange, yellow & brown. Each book also featured a map of Mexico on the front cover with the only difference being a pink highlighted area that would indicate which region of Mexico each particular book would target. At a quick glance, all 6 books looked exactly alike.

I will use the first guidebook, Mexico’s Northeastern Routes, as an example of how I tackled the book cover redesign.

My front cover redesign
I proposed to the Sanborn’s president and managers that we should use a photo of Monterrey, NL, on the cover, since it is Mexico’s 3rd largest city, and 2 of the 3 routes entering Mexico in this book pass through it. This image would feature a white border and drop shadow to give the look of an actual photograph. I did this to portray the feeling of collecting memories. After pouring over dozens of images, a nighttime scene was chosen. Since the region this book targets has modern, colonial and archeological tourist attractions, I choose an image of a woven zarape, for the background, to represent the multi-cultural and historical beauty travelers would come across. Where the previous cover design had a bold san serf font for the title, I chose to go with a thinner, more flowing type style. All images, logo and title were executed using Photoshop. All other elements were later added in using Illustrator, to secure clean, crisp line rendering.

Since Sanborn's publishes their own books, it was essential that their logo stand out in the front cover to maximize their branding efforts.

To help readability of the covers' spine, I used the zarape image on the top edge, but flooded the rest with a dark blue color (used in the front cover) to allow the text to stand out.
My back cover redesign

I moved the large map on the front of the original cover designs to the back cover and made it much smaller. The decision to keep the map was as much for the agents who sell the books as it was for the customers. With this simple map, everyone would be able to easily tell which route each specific book was intended for. The back cover would also don a small photo of a Veracruz folkloric dancer that would help affirm the region the book targets. The background was kept to a simple, smooth blue-to-white gradation with the zarape image appearing on the outer edge. The last graphic element added was the books bar code. Not pleased with placing a standard barcode on my cover design, I chose to convert it into the bottom portion of a zarape. This image would be used on all books and would include Sanborn’s stylized sombrero and the number of years the company had been in business, to be updated with every reprint. Last but not least, I included a text summary of the features and benefits the book offers, as a “personal guide”.

The second book I redesigned, Northwestern Routes, showcased the Chepe train that runs along the famous Copper Canyon (it is actually 4 times larger than the Grand Canyon in Arizona). Although the canyon is quite famous, I wanted to bring attention to an amazing landmark that many travelers had still not visited. My third cover design was for the Baja peninsula. This cover design sports an image of tourist reaching out to touch a grey whale. I had chosen this image to show traveling families that Baja is not only a Spring Break destination. Several west coast cities in Baja are well known for their whale watching tours.

Unfortunately I was only able to redesign 3 of the 6 books in the series because the company had me redesign their website halfway through the project. You can see my 3 cover redesigns and the remaining 3 untouched covers here.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Travel Guidebook Redesign Case Study, part 1

In 2004, I was given the task to do a complete redesign of the famous Sanborn's Travelog guidebooks. This redesign project would include covers, log entry structure and content layout. In this article, I will discuss the project’s problem areas, the research and the solutions I proposed. In my next article I will discuss, in more detail, my cover design and page layout.
Previous cover design
My cover design
Guidebook background:
The Sanborn’s Travelog is a famous series of six guidebooks that cover all of Mexico with incredibly detailed directions along with tidbits of history and humor. These mile-by-mile guidebooks take the traveler by the hand to his destination. Each book calculates mileage and offers suggestions for alternate routes, as well as lists customer approved hotels and restaurants.

The Problem:
The latest guidebook covers were designed in the early 1990s and had not been updated in any way. All covers had the same unattractive color combination, stale design and outdated logo. The only thing that distinguished one book cover from another, aside from the title, was a large map highlighting the books’ target region. The interior pages had little to no design elements, other than maps, which made the reading experience a bit bland. Also, the structure of the log entries were difficult to follow because they repeatedly jumped from the front of the book to the back, then to the front again.

The Research:
I spent several afternoons at bookstores watching anyone that approached the Travel section. I wrote down their gender and approximate age. At the end, I looked over each book and map that was picked up by, what appeared to be, seasoned travelers. Afterwards, I looked over other guidebooks that also grabbed my attention. I studied the front covers and noted images and color combinations. I also made many notes on features within the interior pages of all those books. To this I added several hours of online research, and at the end compiled all my notes and presented them to the president and managers of Sanborn’s Mexico Insurance.

The Solution:
The log entries would be restructured to follow known travel routes, where before they spread out from the center of each city. This would eliminate much of the traveler’s frustrations with repeatedly jumping from one end of the book to the other, than back again. Also, the interior pages would feature a side bar to clearly show where additional information would be featured and to also provide travelers with an area where they could jot down their own notes as they followed the routes, instead of flipping to the end of the book for a Notes section. The cover design would feature a large image showing a well-known destination, landmark or activity. I proposed that the cover background be a textured image that would represent the region each book was dedicated to. The map of the region would be moved to the back cover and made much smaller. It would show the routes that the individual book would follow. Each book would also contain plenty of extras, such as maps, featured articles, redesigned hotel and restaurant information, unit conversions and English-to-Spanish translations.

This guidebook redesign project took approximately one year to complete. In my next article I will go into more detail about my cover design and page layout.

Thank you,
Pete C.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Wish I'd Done That! - Super Sexy CPR

The Sexiest Lingerie Ad Ever?

On May 12, a one-minute ad appeared on the video-sharing site Vimeo. It featured an advertisement for Fortnight Lingerie, shot in the style of a super sexy public service announcement. In this ad, two women demonstrate the proper way of performing CPR. On that day, the video earned a total of 15 views. After 5 days, the video had hit well over the 1 million mark.

No one ever knows which uploaded video will be a hit, but there’s an art form to creating viral advertisements. Does sex sell? Absolutely! Here, the Toronto based agency, Red Urban, used two sexy and attractive models dressed in frilly lingerie to promote CPR and Fortnight Lingerie.

So what’s the secret to this video’s success? Sex? Sure, but it’s also a legitimate instructional video. (Honestly! There was actually a medical expert on the set.) The truth is, more than anything, that this promotional video was brilliantly created for a lingerie company that hardly anyone had ever heard about. It was created by an advertising agency that wanted to go all out to show the world what they could do.

Red Urban’s creative director, Christina Yu, later admitted that the agency had created the spot at no cost to Fortnight Lingerie, and released it onto “the net” to see how it would do organically.

Now, all lingerie companies produce sexy bra commercials, but Red Urban did it with a twist. The concept was simple - Fortnight Lingerie makes anything sexy. And what’s the most unsexy ad an agency can possibly create? You guessed it, a mundane instructional CPR public service announcement.

In June 2010, the Super Sexy CPR site was launched and added its Super Sexy Abdominal Thrusts video, (also legitimately educational!) along with that cool, minimalistic soundtrack used in both videos.

Saving lives has never been sexier.

Thank you,
Pete C
Brainwerx Design

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Tuesday, February 1, 2011

When good logos go bad, who's to blame?

The original logo design I created in 1999.
In 1999 a local coffee house, MoonBeans Coffee, asked me to create a logo for their new business. One of the main requests, by the company owner, was that the logo appear as if the company had been a well established franchise. With that in mind, I dove into my research and worked closely with my client while developing sketches.

At the end of the entire process, the client choose the logo that you see here. I developed a full brand identity system for MoonBeans that included stationary, disposable cups, menu boards, etc. I even painted a mural on a wall and helped design the interior of their original establishment.

After months of collaboration and hard work, the client and I slowly stopped working together. He concentrated more on radio advertisement, which is a media that I do not work with. Days became months, and months became years. On a rare occasion, the coffee house owner and I would get together and work on a small project but our business relationship never blossomed again.

Flash forward to 2 1/2 weeks ago (1-15-11). I walked into a local burger joint and saw that same logo I created 12 years ago on a T-shirt, but it had been (how can I put this kindly) revised. As soon as I saw the altered logo, my first thought was, "Somebody changed it, and it doesn't look good." Honestly, I would have had the exact same thought whether I had designed the original logo or not. Knowing what the original logo looked liked and seeing what it became, makes me think that "the change" did not improve the logo or my ex-client's business. It seems that whoever altered it had a very specific audience in mind. Or absolutely NO audience in mind.

Altered logo.
Now, don't get me wrong. I don't feel bitter about this at all. No designer should expect their artwork to live forever without being adjusted after so many years. As a general rule, graphic designs rarely last more than two years, due to changing trends. Most well designed logos will last 8 - 10 years before someone changes "something" about them.

So who's to blame here? Me for not keeping up with the client? The client for allowing a negative change to his image? The designer who made the change for not having a broader audience in mind?

I've passed by the coffee house many times. Each time, I see the exterior light sign that still bares the original logo. That gives me hope that not all branding efforts are lost for my ex-client. Maybe it's time to stop by for a cup of coffee???

-Pete C.
Brainwerx Design
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Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Creative business card design

Everyone knows that marketing and branding go hand in hand. I'm a firm believer that every point of contact your business has should make a statement. It should say exactly what your business is about and it should be memorable.

When I began sketching design concepts for my business cards, I knew that emphasizing the gears (or one gear as it would turn out to be) would compliment my logo. It would also make a statement about my work process, which I touched on in my previous blog article, Logo Design Case Study: Brainwerx Design.

I wanted my potential customers to have an "interactive feel" to the card and "moving the gear" (opening the card to reveal my contact information) would convey that feeling. For this to work properly, I had to keep the gear graphic to a specific size so that the information below would still be at a legible font size. Doing this would keep the logo on the front of the card, smaller than most start up companies would care for. Many companies would rather have their logo or company name as large as possible. That's part of marketing and advertising. I wanted my customers to "feel" what my work is about. That's branding.

Now, there are hundreds of ways that I could have dealt with the main gear graphic in the front of my business card. I could have used metallic inks, foils, even casting actual metal, but all those options are quite expensive. Anyone that has ever created their own business cards and wanted to do a custom die cut (the use of a metal template to cut away a specific shape) has found out that this is a very expensive process. So what's my big cost cutting secret? That's simple - having a very steady hand.

When I had decided to treat the gear graphic as a die cut, I knew that I could do the cut on my own for a very low cost. I bought a 1/4" hole punch, a 1/2" hole punch and very sharp X-ACTO knife, all for approximately $20.00. Whenever I have some free time, I sit down in front of the television and cut and hole punch the cards. I've never thought of it as a tedious project since I enjoy being constructive away from my computer. Plus it reminds me of my final semester at the Art Institute of Houston, preparing my final portfolio presentation.

 Pete C.

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Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Logo Design Case Study: Brainwerx Design

In mid, 2010 I created Brainwerx Design as a way to market myself as a freelance graphic designer. Truly creative designers spend hours upon hours sketching the perfect logo for themselves or their clients. I do the same...usually. When designing a logo, I normally do not pay attention to my first few sketches. I consider those to be a starting point and know that they will lead to something greater. Those first ideas have so much room for improvement. Even after you settle on a concept, it can still be developed so much further.

Although I had sketched out several different logo ideas, I kept coming back to one of my first concepts, the design that you see in this blog post. Why would I do that? Well, allow me to refer to one of my previous articles (Looking for a "Creative" advertising agency) where I wrote: "Advertising agencies, design firms and freelance designers need to see themselves as their potential customers see them. They need to be aware of the market they are in, and market themselves accordingly." That's the key... market yourself accordingly.

I live and work in the very southern tip of Texas. For over a century the economy in this region has been well behind the rest of the US. It has only been in the past 25 years that there has been an explosion (revolt?) of high school graduates going on to graduate from college. And only in these past 10 years, has this area begun to grow to the metropolis that everyone knew it had the potential to become. Don't get me wrong, we have made great strides here. We have upscale boutiques, interior designers, etc., but I strongly believe that I could not successfully market myself in this area as an upscale graphic design service. Therefore, I could not use a logo that was too abstract. What I needed was something that was clever, creative and instantly memorable.

The image of the head profile with gears lends itself well to the Brainwerx Design name. They both emphasize the creative process. Aside from the final artwork that I produce for my clients, the "process" is what I want them to understand and hope come to appreciate. I want my clients to see that I create new images and not simply copy-and-paste objects onto a template. I custom create their logos, websites, advertisements, etc. I actually think about their business and their branding efforts.

Pete C.

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