Graphic Design

Thought + Inspiration

Shadow Element

Graphical design has two major parts. One is carefully thinking through the problem, the other is artistic inspiration. Both are necessary to creating an effective piece. Without the first, you get pretty pictures that don’t solve the problems. Without the second, you get functional but pedestrian work—ugly, dull, boring. Without either, you have a disaster.

But while software tools and artistic skills can help, the real secret to good design is problem solving.

I’m Glad to Meet Ya!

A used car salesman wants to sell you the cars that he’s got in his lot. Whatever your transportation needs, he’s going to try to solve them with what he’s got at hand. Web design shops feel similar pressures. They want to sell you a template or solution that they have on hand. A couple of modifications, slap your logo at the top, and it’s out the door. Once you’ve made a cookie cutter…

We’re different and the variety of our work shows it. For each of our clients, we focus on their needs. What are their goals? What audience are they trying to reach? What is the best way to advance their business? Within the constraints of each project, we fashion a solution to match, incorporating our design philosophy into our work. Since every project has different constraints and goals, every solution is different.

Case Study: Print Campaign

Logos for Labor Connection

Labor Connection, who supplied temporary workers to the construction industry, wanted to reach their audience of contractors with a postcard campaign. They were marketing a new program called the “Select Worker” program. We came up with a campaign around the “Workers that Stand Out” tag. We created a supplementary mark that highlighted the fourth in a series of five and then created a series of postcards that amplified on the theme. We wanted memorable postcards that would appeal to the contractor audience—and maybe get pinned to a bulletin board. Here are a few of our favorites from the campaign.

Who Would You Kiss? Always Prepared Ready for Action
King Frog and Sexy Shoes

The frog images are by Kent Marshall. Pill and shoe images by Pipsqueak.

Information Graphics

We often use graphics to explain information. Informational graphics have a different character from those meant to serve a design function.

We follow many of the precepts laid down by Edward Tufte, who has made an extensive study of effective information graphics. While Tufte sometimes takes an almost puritanical view (he scorns any “decorative” elements in an information graphic as just so much excess ink), his underlying thesis is extremely important to any practitioner in this field. Informational graphics should be simple and clear. Simplicity and clarity are goals that are easier to state than to accomplish. It usually requires a flash of genuine inspiration to conceive of a method which clearly illustrates the desired information. We recommend three of Tufte’s books on this subject to anyone interested in effective visual communication. The books are: “The Visual Display of Quantitative Information” (1983); “Envisioning Information” (1990); and “Visual Explanations” (1997).

Neap and Spring Tides Illustration Phases of the Moon compared to the Average Tide Level

The phases of the Moon reveal a lot about the tides. When the Moon is full or new, the tides vary the most from the average water level. When the Moon is half lit, the tides vary the least from the average.

The electromagnetic spectrum is depicted with visible light in the middle, lower wavelengths to the left and higher wavelengths to the right.

Often, to explain a technological innovation, it’s important to clearly depict a scientific principle (top). A presentation graphic displays branch office expansion (bottom).

A Presentation Graphic Displays Present and Future Branch Offices
Mural of the Sun and the Electromagnetic Spectrum for Chabot Space and Science Center

10′ tall mural created for the Chabot Space and Science Center, Oakland, California.

Logo Creation

Logos are particularly tricky—a single graphic to represent the soul of a company. Often, they’re the result of a negotiation between creator and company as different ideas take visual form. The creator’s personal style has to be subservient to the needs of the client.

Logo for Acoustic Vortex Logo for California Slate Logo for ESTL Logo for Galmer Silversmiths Logo for Garnett Ventures Logo for GEOinterns Logo for World Environment Day—Technology and Nature Logo for Logo for ICC Forum Logo Logo for JAB Construction Logo for Jaisalmer Jewelry Logo for Judy and George Corporate Communications Logo for Large Screen Video Logo for MMPA Paris Logo for Musync Logo for Plough and Stars Irish Pub Logo for Polygon Gold Label for Queen Cheese Logo for Rattlesnake Ridge Label Logo for Restore the Village Logo for Interfaith Center at the Presidio Logo for RunFly Studios Logo for San Francisco Baseball Academy Logo for Shippey Vineyards Logo for Skipstone Ventures Logo for Trade Ideas Logo for Training for Techies Logo for Travel with Loli Logo for World Environment Day 2005

Graphic Creation

At Pipsqueak, we’re software polymaths. We incorporate the best that each has to offer when creating the assets for our projects. While we use an extravagant array of software tools, our work doesn’t always originate in the computer. We’re not adverse to picking up a paint brush or pencil and making marks on canvas or paper to get the effects we seek. Olga is an accomplished painter with work housed in the permanent collection of the Hermitage Museum in Leningrad.

You can’t shortcut the inspiration necessary for effective design through the use of cool tools. They may help you to achieve effects, but they don’t make you more creative and they don’t illuminate the path to solving a design challenge. Photoshop’s twirl filter rarely helps solve a design problem. The tools make it easy to create something, but not the right thing.

Stage for a Web Show Demonstrates Construction of Multi-Layered Graphic. The final image. Stage for a Web Show Demonstrates Construction of Multi-Layered Graphic. An animation showing the various layers used to create this image.

This was the stage for a voyeuristic web show focused on the open window.
An animation shows the various layers used to create this image.

Shippey Vineyards Label for Black Rose Wine Shippey Vineyards - Two Bottles of Wine - Black Rose and Midnight O. My Little Swans - Map of Tanzania
A collection of photo-realistic vector illustrations of Blade Networking products.

Vector Illustration Assortment
of Computer Networking Products (press or hover to enlarge)