Carlo & Steph’s Wedding

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My friends got married last January! The bride Steph is a good friend of one of my best friends and her husband Carlo is a family friend. They’re a very straightforward couple who really knew what they wanted.

Pinterest wasn’t very popular yet when I got married so when I asked Steph what kind of wedding invitation she had in mind, I was directed to one of her Pinterest boards to gauge her taste. She and Carlo wanted something very hip(ster), modern, and fun! It’s a far cry from my own wedding invitation but it was great to be able to try out a style that’s really popular right now.

What was really cool about this couple is that they really wanted their friends to take an active role in their wedding — which was all too easy because they have such creative friends and a creative network to boot (Carlo is one of the guys behind ZeroThreeTwo, the website that “shows the cool in Cebu”)

Not only did I have a Pinterest board to take inspiration from, Carlo and Steph also had a wedding logo made by Blue Cuevas, another one of their friends and a talented logo designer. I had my tools and parameters and buckled down to work.

My challenge is to incorporate Blue’s logo and to make use of their color palette, peach/pink and gray.

They were such a breeze to work with — no bridezilla moments here at all. There were no drastic revisions and everything was smooth sailing for the most part.

This is the wedding invitation:

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The Save-the-Date card:

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Envelope lining options (I showed them all the possible color combinations):

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I marveled so much at the work Carlo and Steph put into their wedding and at the fact that so much has changed since I got married. I didn’t have Instagram (not even a smart phone) in 2011 and only got savvy with wedding hashtags when I worked on their invitations.

Even better with this couple is the fact that they have a website detailing all the behind the scenes work they did.

Where I talk about my design process: Prints & Design: Marla Darwin

Blue’s Interview: The Logo Master: Blue Cuevas

Twenty O Four (the printer)’s Interview: Invitations by Twenty O Four

Oceanchild’s Interview (the web developer who took her cues from my design): The Oceanchild Behind Our Dot Com: Ria Redulla

Pablo’s

Pablo’s is a pub and restaurant (as seen in the logo’s description, heh) owned by a group of young people that includes two pairs of siblings. One of them, Tania, is my sister’s best friend.

She approached us and thus began a series of meetings where the stakeholders explained to us the concept of a bar/restaurant they wanted to open. We all graduated from the same small high school system where everyone kinda knew each other so the rapport was easy and fun.

A well-loved bar in Valero St. in Salcedo Village was closing when we started meeting and we all realized that it was a void that needed to be filled — a place that’s in between a dive bar and a throbbing, pulsing club. A place where people can freely talk and then dance when they feel like it; whereas in a dive bar and club setting, these factors become mutually exclusive.

But since those same kids have grown up a bit and are chasing new life paths (law school, jobs in the corporate world, etc.), this new bar will have a bunch of upgrades here and there, but with the same comfortable familiarity from college.

Pablo’s is named after Pablo Escobar, the (in)famous, Robin Hood-esque drug lord. Theirs was a vision of where Pablo Escobar would hie off to for dealings and meetings with the dark and influential.

The interiors were already set, and the team had the vision for the atmosphere nailed right away. They wanted leather and dark, aged wood. They wanted to feature a secret book case that would lead to a private room and a liquor cabinet to store scotch for the regulars. So, this is a couple of awesome notches up from college — but not quite up there with sleazy uncle territory.

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As always, I took to visual driver making to figure out the personality of the bar. I think the selection of Joseph Gordon-Levitt and poker summed it up while the rest reinforced the existing ideals. With a guy with JGL, we have a dapper dresser who exudes a strong masculinity but with a youthful, playful, and forward-thinking touch.

With poker, we have a traditional game that had new life breathed into it in recent years where it became a fun past time in friend’s houses during weekends. The personality of the brand is really about carrying over time-tested tenets of masculinity and suaveness and making it fresh and this generation’s own.

Once I got that straightened out, I began my first study:

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I wanted to play around the Latin American element to Pablo Escobar. He was Colombian (and the face of the Colombian drug lord stereotype) and I figured it might be interesting to give a tinge of something rustic to the place. I couldn’t go all out native Colombian since it would fight with the macho, high-end look of the place, so I took some liberties with my references — all of them just having mild touches to a rustic, Latin look.

I started with Rick’s Cafe Americain from one of my favorite movies Casablanca. I figured if Pablo cleaned himself up (looks-wise and values-wise), he’d be more like Bogart’s Rick. I infused that with machuca tiles (another favorite) and considered trying to make Pablo Escobar’s visage into an iconic graphic similar to Che Guevara — which was requested by the client.

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I came up with this. I combined a slab font with a vintage feel with his face enclosed in a shape that I derived from tile patterns. Now, from the get go, I had an uneasy feeling about using his face. Unlike Pablo Escobar, Che Guevara was GUAPO. He had a mug that was begging to get plastered on things. With Pablo (double chin, hairy chest, pornstache), he embodied the sleazy uncle persona I was running away from.

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It wasn’t so bad on merch. Illustration is not my forte and had I been handier with rendering faces, I might have given Pablo a fair shot.

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After my attempt with Study 1, I figured that I had to commit to the dapper interiors of the bar. I tried to explore Pablo Escobar in a less grassroots look and had to figure out creating an option that didn’t have to make use of his face.

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It was simple enough figuring out a color scheme for this study. Black is macho and gold is luxe — together they made a fine pairing. I got my inspiration from vintage and modern objects that had the color palette.

The easiest way to personify a person is to create symbols for them — a family crest was just too much (and to me crests are synonymous to honor, which Pablo had a questionable lack of) and the symbols attached to him didn’t cut it for me either. Do I do a mound of coke? (In more ways than one… ahaha.. bad joke)

I went with the idea of a monogram since it had neutral connotations and it was a natural symbol for affluence and power. Let’s have him leave his mark this way..

Lastly, I got the idea of using a modern and sexy typeface from a funky Pablo Escobar poster. Pablo can be modern and sexy! Let’s do that!

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I did my own take of a monogrammed “P” and “E” that I came across my compiled pictures of monograms. My illustrations need work, but I’m pretty handy with anchor points and symmetry.

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I’m not too pleased with the white space I gave the logo but the print materials looked very promising. I liked this study better because you could put the logo on ANYTHING and at any size and it will still be strong and memorable. That’s the stuff of good logos.

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Fortunately Study 2 was picked but they wanted more tweaks. The pass looked very flat and the P and the E weren’t recognizable as two letters. I used that opportunity to stop cutting corners and to throw myself into it. I took on the challenge of finding a way to split the two and make them pop. Again, I studied my monogram references and figured out where to place the shadings. The trick here was to make sure everything was only in one color so I had to punch the shadings well.

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We also included the description and I became more mindful of the negative space. Look at how much better this one turned out:

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Graphics need to breathe and just like people, when you give them their space, they shine.

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I also had to propose the signage implementation. I didn’t realize that the location had a strict format for all the tenant’s signage and I had to think of a way to break up a vertical logo for a horizontal format.

In a perfect world, we shouldn’t have to do that, but in the real world, we have to adjust and make the best we can do based on the given parameters.

I proposed in keeping the type elements in the same proportion and grouping and then used the monogram as key visuals. I played around with the negative space to make all the elements stand out, then I proposed mounting gold sconce lamps on top as their light source. Sconce lamps are so classy.

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I suggested to have a vertical signage installed as well to maintain the branding, but it’s too bad that building didn’t allow it.

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Pablo’s Pub and Restaurant can be found in Forum South Global, 7th Avenue corner Federacion Drive, Bonifacio Global City. Check it out!

Jack ‘n Jill Choco Knots

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I’m on a roll with things that take me out of my comfort zone right now. Sometimes I feel embarrassed showing my more “mainstream” projects because I really want to focus on doing minimalist, quirky, and indie stuff. Then again, it’s with the big companies that we get our baptisms in fire — where a lot more is at stake and you learn to hone your skills in communicating to a vastly wide (wide, as in NATIONWIDE) audience. It was with this project that I realized that I really love packaging design and that I love designing for children.

This packaging project was something I did for Whitewall Design Studio two years ago. I designed concepts for Jack ‘N Jill’s Choco Knots line and it was my first experience with designing for a high-volume, mass-produced product. This entailed several visits to the Universal Robina Corp. (URC) head office and generating sheets and sheets of ideas and revisions for presentation. I was nearly bowled over going through my files and seeing all the revisions we did for them. This was a year long project and it took some stamina to soldier on.

Here are the designs that I turned over to URC:

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This is what they used to look like:

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There was a lot of potential to bring the old design to life. They were also introducing a new flavor (the double chocolate one). The challenge here was to update the packaging while making sure that people still recognize them. The target market is kids but know also that this snack item makes frequent appearances in work pantries and college cafeterias — so go kiddie, but no too kiddie.

This was my attack plan:

  • Fix the type!!! In the world of mass-produced packaging (just go down a grocery aisle one of these days to see what I’m talking about), you have to pump up your name. Apart from making it pop out using shadows (I hate doing this, but fight, we must) it was also time to choose a good, fat, loud font positioned in a less awkward manner.
  • I chose Gotham Rounded. Of course.
  • Make the pretzels look delicious and strong. All I needed to do was to select “yummier” looking colors and to ease up on the shading.
  • Play around with several kiddie backgrounds, but maintain a dominant color background. Select vibrant and distinct color palettes for them.

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I submitted four themes, but for the sake of tidying up this already lengthy post, I’m showing the two strongest ones I put forward. Both studies made use of the idea of toys as the background. The first set being traditional toys and the other was robots.

All of the flavors kept the colors that made them who they are. The classic Choco Knots are red and I pushed it towards a more orange red away from its original maroon red. The result is a lot friendlier.

I also made the pretzels look more like what milk chocolate should be. In real life, the browns have a whitish film to them but on print, they make the chocolates look sickly. The trick is to put orange/red hues into them.

I learned that from my oil painting teacher (shout out to Tita Sylvia Amorsolo-Lazo, thank you for putting up with me during the summer of 2004) who taught me to put yellow highlights (instead of white) on my trees and leaves so they don’t look so ghostly.

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For the new variant, I needed it to communicate it being dark chocolate, so naturally we went down a deeper and more somber hue from Choco Knots. To balance the dark, I chose to highlight the name in orange. Orange and brown will always be winning combinations. I will always use that tandem forever ever. (They haven’t settled on a name yet during this time, and we went from “Dark” to “Duo” to “Duette” to “Extreme” before settling on “Blast”)

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Here’s Milky Knots with no 3D text effect (just wanted to show what it looked like before I succumbed). I used white for all flavors’ names because there is a tiny list of colors that make the cut for mainstream packaging. On the top of my head, I list red, white, and yellow. Any other option just doesn’t look as strong.

For the milk pretzel, I really wanted it to look like milk. To me, delicious milk is creamy milk so it was key to try to replicate the ivory-ness of it for the pretzels.

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For Berry Knots, I thought the old packaging looked a bit anemic. I kept the color of the pretzels but wanted to make the packaging look more exciting. In comes magenta and green to do the job. I put lime green as a secondary color because strawberries have tartness to them and I thought it would be cool to try to execute that visually as well.

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URC picked the traditional toy background but with a more subdued background. I had to tone down my Berry Knots colors too, heh.

They also wanted the biggest pretzel to look like it’s dunking into a sea of chocolate. This was the project that forced me to learn gradient meshes to make the pretzels look like delightful, graceful divers.

This take eventually started looking too plain so I injected more color into the Milky Knots and then manipulated the shadings of the background items of the others to make them come alive. I had to change the background of Milky (I had to bid goodbye to my gentle blue and had to use a sky blue) and Berry, as well.

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We struggled a bit with Berry Knots, not knowing which background color to use. They liked the green, but it couldn’t be the dominant color. I ended up rehashing my knowledge of Barbie and Polly Pocket to figure out all the iterations of pink I could toy with. Baby pink won out.

I’m also proud to say that I created the pretzels from scratch, too! I can become heavily dependent on Illustrator that I balk at the idea of having to open Photoshop. I had no choice, Photoshop is essential for getting the shaded and glowing look, yo.

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After we wrapped up the project, I forgot about my pretzel friends until a couple of months ago. I was watching Cartoon Network with my three year old niece and I saw this commercial: (click here!)

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It was just magic seeing my designs in a kids’ commercial! That was also my cue to hit up the supermarket because all four flavors had already launched.

Arsenal

This is my first process post of the year! It’s also nice to begin 2014 with a return client. Stephen from our Moda FC project started a new business in 2013. He already owns a place called Eco Car Cafe in Seattle and he wanted to expand it by coming up with a line of auto care products, the flagship product being car wax.

I am not doing the best job explaining the nature of the business because I don’t drive and I don’t exactly have the biggest interest in cars — which is why I was scared taking on a project like this. It’s interesting though because this is the second car product project I did in 2013.

If I had my way, I’d stick to things I’m more familiar with and actually consume with gusto (food, beauty, music, people, books, food, and FOOD!) since I feel like I have more of an instinct to call their design shots.

I guess I snapped out of it because a good designer should always be willing to jump outside his comfort zone. That area is where we get to push ourselves to learn new skills and put our old ones to the test. I think it’s also because the “artist” in me still gets concerned about how much of myself is in the work that I do.

This is where we separate the artist from the designer: the designer has the task of examining projects with the client’s lenses, the consumers’ lenses, layered with lots of research, then ending with my own lenses. I don’t drive, but I can try to get into the head of those who do (here’s where my car-loving husband comes in) and even if I’m not a guy (the target market), my job is to mix all that I know about good design then pairing it with what I think guys should want out of their car care products. This is why insight generation should take a huge bulk of the research process.

Phew.

So I was presented with the name “Arsenal.” No surprises here because Stephen is a big football nut but it’s a good name because the image of an arsenal of car care products serves well for the brand. It’s your battle cache and the idea of an arsenal is a lot more sophisticated than a tool box or your garage shelf.

Speaking of “sophisticated,” that word was one of the key characteristics Stephen wanted for his car wax brand. He wanted it to be on the upper tier of car products and he wanted to scream “LUXURY!” The imagery he wanted was yachting, the French Riviera, Vertu phones, and bespoke suits. I had to hit the brakes on that proposition.

Here’s the rub with commodity items:

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When dealing with commodity items such as bottled water, dog food, rice, etc., there’s a thin line between being recognized as a good product versus being recognized as a pretentious product. Car wax is definitely a commodity item. Even if Stephen reassured me that he has the substantiation for it (superior ingredients, formulation, etc.), it’s still just car wax. This means that people may have their favorite brands but when push comes to shove and their brand isn’t available, they’ll easily just buy whatever’s there.

I came up with a chart to explain two interpretations of luxury. His target market has a significant chunk of 20-somethings who drive Corollas and while they may patronize good products, it’s safe to say that these aren’t the guys who zip around in jets and clink their glasses of Veuve Clicquots. For Arsenal, we can have the premium look but its identity is more of an aspirational luxury rather than actual luxury. (I had immense fun trying to figure out in the chart who can be “above” an A-list Hollywood spawn and ended up Image Googling Andrea Casiraghi, Prince of Monaco. Yumm-o.)

With that in mind, I proceeded to come up with my mood boards.

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Essentially, what I was doing was to showcase the best of masculinity. I didn’t even need coaching from Joel here. I started with Chuck Yeager (the man who broke the sound barrier) and flirted with the idea of the dapper, rugged guy on-the-go. Since this was a car product, I focused on the idea of comfortable exploration.

The color palette revealed itself in the mood board and I opted to use a rich navy blue complemented with a nice gold. These colors complement each other on the color wheel so I felt really gung-ho about it.

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For the font, nothing screams masculine more than action movies so I used Bank Gothic, which I’ve nicknamed the Pacific Rim font (BOOYEAH — My peg was Chuck Yeager and Yeager sounds like “jaeger,” it’s so perfect).

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For the icon, I took my inspiration from Tudor watches. They found a way to modernize the family crest and I did my own take on it. The crest symbolizes nobility and longevity and I figured that was the best way to inject “premium” into Arsenal. Since we’re doing aspirational luxury, it had to be modern or else it would look too snooty. Then I incorporated it into a crosshatch pattern to reinforce the diagonal strike on the shield.

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I was so in love with my first concept that I didn’t know how I was going to come up with a second option. I pulled it off anyway when I thought of Paul Newman (hee!) and Daniel Craig (as an actor, not James Bond — the latter would be a better fit for my first study). It’s so funny how I start with the men. The theme then came to me naturally. It was still about exploration but this time the focus is on a more outdoorsy guy who isn’t afraid to get down and mussed up. There’s still an element of luxe to this (the off-road Mercedes Benz, the camera) but this reflects a man who likes to step out and interact with the world on a more grassroots level.

I think this is how you can project luxury on a more substantial level, when you paint the story and the romance, instead of throwing out a ton of gold.

This mood board had earthier colors to it (golds, browns, greens), but for the logo I decided to keep it black and white to keep it stark and powerful. If this is the study that gets chosen, then I was willing to experiment with color for the packaging.

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Stephen cited a bunch of perfume and scotch brands as his inspirations so I decided to indulge him a bit with a more serious font. Then to summon the outdoorsy spirit, I came up with arrows and reinforced it with a shield. The items were neutral symbols for weapons (as opposed to actual guns, those were too polarizing to use) so that the icon would be more in line with the word “arsenal.”

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Stephen liked both but the second study was indeed too polarizing (he’s in the US and guns and anything that would bring it up were too much of a hot button topic). All systems were go for study 1 which was our recommendation. YES!

I explored several studies for the packaging and stationery. I mostly keep everything simple and minimalist and just showed different options for key visuals, like the pattern, a picture of a vintage car, gradients, etc.

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This was what was selected for the packaging. We’re so lucky that Stephen’s supplier carried a gold nozzle that matched our colors.

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Here are the options for the tissue paper patterns for packing the items:

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Then this is the final business card design. I’m so happy we got to use the pattern.

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A!R! presents Help!

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I keep forgetting I have this blog. Then I remembered I had it when I had to renew my domain for 2014. I also tend to remember it whenever people ask me where they can see my work — which should be a regular jolt to the head, but then I forget again until the topic comes up for another time.

It doesn’t mean that there’s no new work (THERE’S ALWAYS WORK!); it only means that even when we finish projects, not all of them are being launched yet. Sometimes I won’t even write about it because I also get on board with projects where I collaborate with other designers and we barely see my foot print in it.

While there’s a lull in posts for the last half of the year, I’m very pleased to show this project. YES! Another gig poster! I get the brief, wait for the details, then I crank this out in a day. This time it’s for a tie up between Attraction! Reaction! and A-HA! Learning Center. Attraction! Reaction! is the only gig I regularly attend and it’s a wonderful place to be with my friends and listen to music we like. A-HA! is my friend Jaton’s free tutorial center for children (pegged after 826 Valencia) — we used to run an online magazine together (it's still live, if you want to see it).

Jaton got together with Kathy and Anj from A!R! to raise funds for public schools affected by Yolanda, and then I got pulled in to do the poster. Can I just say that it’s been my secret dream to do an A!R! poster? Apart from being a fan of the production, a lot of their previous posters were done by a lot of designers I admire. I always thought I wasn’t cool enough, haha. But look, dreams come true!

Gig posters are pure love. Just like with the Explosions in the Sky poster, my directions were to do anything I want. Because I get to experiment, I cannot predict how the work will turn out and I often get surprised with the styles I end up using.

I usually manifest design styles that I’m currently drawn to. For this poster, I’ve been wanting to try that 3D-but not-3D look. It kind of just took off from there and I busied myself with adding elements to fill up the blank spaces. I can never be a minimalist so I think I made it up by being minimalist with my color selection. Black and white was my platform and I thought of including one more color to make everything pop.

I like retro things and I didn’t want to do the conventional black and white partners (red, orange, yellow)… so I used PINK. I hate the color pink (we’ve discussed this with my Eames chair, yeah?) but I was drawn to the imagery of flamingos, Pepto Bismol, pink Cadillacs, and Caladryl lotion (Is this still being manufactured? It’s a random visual but Caladryl is a talisman of my youth).

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I think the pink added a feel good factor (helping people should always leave you feeling good) and I peppered the thing with some of my favorite Dingbats for some playful urgency. I capped it off with one of my favorite fonts DIN Next Pro then accented it with the retro Idlewild. This is still a gig poster so I wanted it to stay fun but with a slight hint of somberness to it.

Hope you guys make it out!