Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Iron Designer: MateVana

Imagine a client brings you a brand name, a niche market… and tea. The client wants branding, website design, and a few interior design ideas for an upscale, Japanese-themed cocktail bar named 'Katsu' (Japanese for 'thirst'). Your inspiration is a variety of loose-leaf tea sold by Teavana, the MatéVana®. Iron Designer, begin!

MatéVana® is a blend of mate and red rooibos teas with cocoa, almond, chocolate chips, and enhanced with hazelnut. It's mostly chocolate and nut browns, all with a woody but smooth texture. The tea is accented with a striking violet blue and a few shades of yellow ranging from citrus to sunflower. These portions of the tea are leaf-like and feminine. The client wants something that incorporates the clean, simple lifestyle of traditional Japan with a modern, rich atmosphere.

I pulled the palette above from the tea provided. We have a dark rich brown, a milky chocolate, two tones of gold, and a vibrant electric blue. Once we have those, we can apply them to our logo ideas. The client wants something sophisticated, but also evocotive of Japanese design and culture. On that vein, we have the logo ideas below.

I chose design at the bottom right to fashion a web site. I used the textures of tatami and wood grain. The photographs are simple and all match with black backgrounds. The site design is spartan and clean.

The bar itself should feature the textures of tatami, a touch of brushed metal, dark wood, rice paper, and a nice blue and neutral Japanese print fabric. The fabric brings in the feminine touch we found in the cornflower petals of the tea. Lighting should be intimate and utilize the golds in the palette.

Clients often find inspiration in things you may not expect. Sometimes it's good to practice by figuratively pulling an idea out of a hat. To be an Iron Designer, you have to be versatile and agile and ready to tackle any request. Explore the possibilities and take a second look at the world around you.

Teavana and MatéVana are registered trademarks. No copyright infringement intended.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Project Completion: Knowing When to Stop

"…letting well enough alone – which is the rule for grown artists only." -Winslow Homer

One of the most trying obstacles of art and design is knowing when to stop. Creative people, by nature, are often unimpressed by their own efforts. We can paint, sculpt, and tweak away until something is completely ruined. In order to grow as artists and designers, we must learn to step enough is enough.

When you're working on a personal project or make your money as a fine artist, it's oftentimes more difficult to put your signature on something and call it done. Doing something for yourself intimates a personal attachment and we all want personal things to be perfect. When you're collaborating, a project can be difficult to finish due to the principle of 'too many cooks in the kitchen'. When more than one decision-maker is involved, there are different ideas of 'complete'. How do we combat these roadblocks to success?

Where personal projects are concerned, the path to completion lies in understanding your expectations at the outset. What do you want your piece to accomplish? Do you have plans for the work when it's finished? What's your audience and what does this audience expect? It's also helpful to have a good set of sketches and references handy. As they say in carpentry: measure twice; cut once. This can be applied to art and design. Planning will save you time and help you create a more cohesive final product. When you know where you're going, you know when to stop.

Sometimes, all the planning in the world won't save you from feeling like something isn't quite right with your piece. If this occurs, step away. Speaking from experience, I attest to the difficulty of walking away, but it can really help you gain some perspective. Setting something aside for a while can allow you to revisit it later with fresh eyes.

If you're working collaboratively on a project—for an employer, freelance client, or volunteer project—planning, again, is a great way to avoid a lot of rough patches. Gather as much information as you can. Ask about audience again, be clear on expectations, and involve everyone in discussions about style, colors, and emotions. When everyone has input from the beginning, sticky confrontation down the road will be less prevalent. (I will add, confrontation is usually unavoidable, but the frequency can be lessened.)

Collaborative projects demand a high competency and confidence. Without being pushy or overbearing, speak your mind on technical matters. If someone suggests a typeface or color that just won't work, try to explain to them exactly why. Take your listener's experience into account. If they aren't creative, understand that some of your terms may not make sense. When all the cards are on the table, it will be easier to agree when a project reaches completion.

As with anything, it's possible to ruin a project by going only an inch too far. Planning for completion can really help you know when to step back, add your signature, and move on. Remember, even the masters had to put down their brushes and chisels at some point. Imagine if daVinci had put just one more swath of paint on the Mona Lisa. She may not be the enigmatic treasure she is today.