• I left my phone at home. Not on purpose of course. But perhaps I should from time to time. On any given day I have a myriad of potential distractions, seemingly lying in wait to pounce on me and eat away precious hours from my day. And it usually is hours, and not minutes, that get taken away by these things. I typically aim for a solid 4-5 hours of quality work time each day, so these distractions are very damaging. I keep Twitter off, thanks to Wren App, answer email only a few times throughout the day (hopefully), and wear headphones to alert my @cowork/ers that I’m trying to focus.

    There are so many things that can be a distraction, and I’ve unintentionally removed one of the biggest from my desk today. Totally ok with that.

  • Christmas Cards 2011

    Each year Elizabeth and I create our own Christmas Cards. It’s a tradition we’ve held since our first year together, and one I’m glad we’ve held onto as it’s a great excuse to design something together, try something new and hopefully share a smile with our close friends and family. For this years’ card we pulled in some additional help from our new friend Katie at Concrete Lace to create a simple, blind-embossed Merry Christmas (typeset in my recent favorite, Futura Bold) on a heavyweight cotton stock. BTW: Katie’s great to work with, give her a call if you’re looking for some letterpress.

    Once we got the cards from her, we dip-dyed the lower half of the cards in a beautiful chartreuse yellow; we had seen this done on these business cards and had been looking for something to try it on. Turned out great. It was simple, fun and didn’t take very long to do. We then paired them with a simple blue envelope and sent them on their way!

    A few more shots: On Press Finished Letterpress Color Test Color Swatches Drying

  • In these bodies we will live,
    in these bodies we will die.
    And where you invest your love,
    you invest your life.

    Mumford & Sons

  • Design Evolution. When I launched this site, I always thought I’d keep making subtle tweaks and changes over time. Adding this, removing that. Always improving, you know? But then I launched Wren and Parachute—and busy got busier. So all the changes that should have happened along the way are now happening all at once and I’m finally taking a fresh look at the site to decide what I want from it; what it needs to do but also what it doesn’t, a small but important piece. This isn’t a redesign, it’s a simple evolution. A new face on an old name. Coming soon.

    Dribbble teaser for now:

    Site Preview

  • Liberty Vintage Motorcycles.

    Love this. Via Vimeo

  • Introducing Wren for Mac

    A tiny Twitter client that keeps you focused on your work

    Today I’m proud to announce Wren for Mac, a small Twitter app for the Mac desktop. Wren keeps you focused on what you’re doing by not showing the timeline. It lets you quickly jot down a thought, link or comment to someone and then get back to what you were doing. You can even save a tweet for later to get just the right wording, or to spread your tweets throughout the day. Learn a bit more at wrenapp.com and pick up a copy on the Mac app store. $4.99 for a limited time!

    This app is the result of many months of work by myself and Kevin Smith. It has been a lot of time, work and late nights—but it’s also been a lot of fun. It was honestly something we just saw a need for. I can read the timeline on several awesome apps (Twitter and Tweetbot coming to mind first), but when I’m working I want a quick way to simply share something new. Wren was my first app to design and seeing it finally launch feels absolutely fantastic—but there’s a lot more in store for Wren. For now, I hope you enjoy using it as much as I do.

  • All Things Must End

    I recently sold my first car. Well, it wasn’t really my first car. But it was the first one that got me excited about cars rather than just having a license. It was a 1987 Honda CRX Si, a quick and nimble two-seater that was a sheer blast to drive. So many good memories with that car: delivering pizzas, running from cops exploring backroads quickly and surviving 1 (almost 2) engine swaps. From the beginning I had planned to restore the CRX back to her former glory. New seats, interior, wheels and paint. A new motor for more power, new shocks/struts/sway bars for stability and new brakes/pads/brake-lines to bring it to a stop. I even found some parts from the european market that were never available here. I can’t count the number of hours I spent finding parts and planning the details of the project.

    Fast-forward four years and life looks a bit different. Goals have changed, my business is growing (read: I have no time) and weeks are passing faster than you can spend them. My once prominent dream of a restored CRX has been overshadowed by new and exciting things. The rebuilt D16 engine that was last swapped in will now power a pretty little red 3rd Gen hatchback, and all the parts I had sourced have gone to new homes. All that’s left is the Si emblem that once adorned the back hatch, a memento of my younger days and my first car.

  • Maybe the reason texting and driving is so dangerous is we just don’t practice enough.


  • Fear. Every once in a while, I can hear a distant motorbike’s high-pitched groaning as it tears down a neighboring street. The throaty rumble of the exhaust, the whine of the engine and the sound of leaves and twigs being crushed as it moves along it’s path.

    In my mind, I fear the smoke monster is coming.

  • A master in the art of living draws no sharp distinction between his work and his play; his labor and his leisure; his mind and his body; his education and his recreation. He hardly knows which is which. He simply pursues his vision of excellence through whatever he is doing, and leaves others to determine whether he is working or playing. To himself, he always appears to be doing both.

    François Auguste René Chateaubriand

  • What's making me laugh this week. This Canadian Border Patrol sketch from HBO. It’s an oldie, but well worth watching this very minute.

  • I like when good things happen to me, but I wait two weeks to tell anyone because I like to use the word ‘fortnight.’”

    Demetri Martin

  • Vintage Denim Neckties

    These spectacular ties by J. A. Christensen are made of vintage denim from the 30s and 40s and are made on a single-needle sewing machine. While the first run has sold out, I’m hoping to pick one up when his second run comes out in May.

  • Today I wish I had a bicycle. Not because the weather is particularly beautiful, although it is a fine day out. And not for the sake of exercise, even though it’s a great benefit. Today I simply want to feel the wind rushing against my face as I peddle as fast and hard as I’m able, stopping only when I’m completely out of breath. Today a car feels like cheating, like I’m missing the point of movement.

  • I get a lot of questions about where to find inspiration. The usual answer is Everywhere, which is true. But it’s also just not. I can find inspiration everywhere, but it’s usually from a few specific sources: FFFFound, Dieline, Dribbble, Barnes & Noble, and most recently: Designspiration.

    Hence this post. Designspiration has been great for finding new inspiration and cataloguing it for later. My dashboard is always a great starting place when I need a jumpstart for a new project. I can see what others are finding plus add great design pieces that I find elsewhere. So while you won’t see me posting on this blog about those design inspiration pieces, you’ll now know where to go to find a small piece of my inspiration collection.

    My Designspiration Dashboard

  • Last night I was able to sit on a panel of three designers giving a Q&A with design students. The panel consisted of an ad agency designer, an in-house designer, and a freelancer (me). Questions varied from “where do you find your inspiration?” and “how do you stay creative?” to “what’s most important in a client relationship?” and “what is the average salary?” One question I found interesting:

    He asked*: “What things were you lacking when you started [designing]?”
    I said**: “Well. Lot’s of things. So many things. But the important part is I didn’t know I was lacking those things. After school I just started working. We all start somewhere, and then you keep learning.

    I would have added: It’s more important to focus on what you do know than what you don’t. We start each day thinking we have things figured out and it’s not until tomorrow that we realize we never did.

    *Not verbatim.
    **Very much not verbatim.

  • Outsourcing Surprise & Delight

    The act of comping, or compensating, customers by occasionally giving them free drinks is a fairly routine action by Starbucks coffee shops as a way to Surprise & Delight their customers. It’s such a small gesture yet one that has big payoff. Surprise & Delight. The perfect description.

    This morning a manager at my local starbucks told me that with their new rewards program, they are no longer allowing employees to comp drinks; the card system takes care of that automatically. Once you purchase 15 drinks, you’ll get a free one. But doesn’t that go against everything that ‘Surprise & Delight’ tries to achieve? Why the decision to suddenly outsource the personal connection? Now there is no surprise, only expectations—and instead of delight a mere system of card-swipes.

  • Southern Savers

    Southern Savers is a site that makes saving money on groceries easy and rewarding. When Jenny Martin decided it was time to give the brand a new look, she first tapped Matthew Smith of Squared Eye for the web design, who then brought me in for the identity and illustration. What a great project to work on! Jenny has done such a good job of building up this business and works so hard to make saving money easy for the rest of us. She’s passionate about her work and loves what she does so I was thrilled to be a part of the project.

    My part started with a call and questionnaire to learn more about Jenny, Southern Savers and how she interacts with visitors and fans. Next came a mood board, a part of my process which gives me a really good feel for what the client likes and dislikes, and Jenny gave us really great feedback—She was excellent to work with! Because Jenny is such a big part of the Southern Savers brand, her personality and likes/dislikes played a bigger part than normal in this particular project.

    After that process, I take all of her feedback from the mood board and sketch out several concepts (or directions). The direction she chose was one that used an illustration of her trademark magnolia, but paired it with an aesthetic that was along the lines of an older general store. A palette of blue and green seemed to really fit her personal aesthetics, as well as what she was trying to accomplish with the brand. Those colors generally evoke a sense of calm and casualness, obviously very appropriate for approaching something like Southern Savers, where people may think it’s going to be complicated based on their past couponing fiascos. The hand-lettered type has an old-school feel without relying on weathering techniques, but is also clean and updated and pushes the classic southern style forward.

    From the beginning I wanted other illustrations to play a role in the branding, and give Matthew Smith from Squared Eye some nice visuals to work with as he designed the site. In my initial sketches, we presented some ideas of what accompanying illustrations might look like for each direction so that Jenny could see where we were headed. Once the logo was approved I moved my attention to the illustrations for the learning page of the site and to creating a small brand mascot—Martin the chipmunk. These additional elements add a lot of fun and personality to the overall brand and were a lot of fun to create.

    Overall, it was really great to see a team of people come together to work on such a wonderful project. I’m really pleased with the way it all came together, and I think our team did an incredible job on the IA, Site Design, Development, Print Collateral and Project Management. The new site and brand has received great comments and reviews from it’s users, and as always I’m excited to have played a part in that. Check out the Southern Savers site to see this brand in action and to start saving money on your grocery bill!

    Identity and illustration: Andrew Ramos
    Website Design: Squared Eye
    Strategy and IA: Emily Smith
    Development: Kevin Smith
    Print Collateral: Elizabeth Ramos
    Project Management: Jamin Jantz

  • iTV and the Apple Cloud

    As an Apple TV user for the last two years, it’s been particularly interesting to hear the speculation of an updated device. Overall, I’ve enjoyed the experience of the Apple TV. It has a relatively limited offering, but what it does, it does well. It’s allowed us to comfortably ditch cable for the last two years and still enjoy the shows we like, when we want them—with no commercials. The tv shows and movies are ready to watch within seconds, so it’s all around pretty enjoyable.

    There are a few areas it stumbles in though, one being storage. I rarely watch a tv show a second time, but also have a hard time deleting that content, so it sits on the device taking up valuable space. Movies take up even more space and we only watch them a few times a year. I see a disconnect there. Is there any real value in owning the physical data, whether disc or digital? Personally, I have no interest in having tv shows and movies stored locally. I suppose you could argue music is a little different since you may listen to it more often than you would watch videos, but even then the music I’m listening to right now is streaming via Pandora. If the rumors are true, we’ll soon be able to upload our music, tv shows and movies to an account on the Apple Cloud and then access it from a computer, iTV, iPad, etc while having the option to save it to a device if needed. You then have access to all your purchased content, without sacrificing hard drive space. With companies like Pandora and Hulu leading the way, the idea of local media storage is quickly becoming a thing of the past.

  • Via

  • You can’t build on top of “We’ll decide later,” but you can build on top of “Done.” Decisions are progress.

    Rework, by 37 Signals

  • The Glass Bottle Effect

    The presentation of a product is so important. How it looks and feels conveys a level of quality about the product and what you can expect from it. But even how you’re introduced to it can play into your evaluation of the product or brand. While in Prague this last summer, we noticed there seemed to be much less advertising than what we are used to Stateside. Instead of brands being able to tell me how good they were, they had to prove it to me.

    Here in the States, the Coca-Cola brand means little to nothing for me. It’s a simple soft drink (or soda, or pop depending on your geographical persuasion). It’s a cheap drink that’s delivered in an equally cheap plastic package. But in Prague, glass bottles were the norm. And not just any glass bottles mind you—heavy, re-used glass bottles. The kind of glass bottle that would literally bounce if you dropped it. The kind of glass bottle where the logo was actually raised from the side creating a wonderful tactile quality. When it was actually brought to the table, it was poured into another glass like it was some fine wine, like maybe I would need to approve the bottle before it was poured. And it was incredibly good. This wasn’t a cheap drink, this was something everyone looked forward to. Can a simple change in presentation make that much of a difference? Absolutely.

  • Dropbox. If you haven’t tried Dropbox yet, I highly recommend it. It’s a great way to share files with others and backup your work. Also, sign up via this link and we’ll both get some complimentary MBs:

  • Specialty Shops

    Most Saturday mornings I can be found at my city’s Downtown Market. Loads of fresh food available directly from the local farmers themselves. I was thinking this week how each booth there is like it’s own little specialty shop: They’re focused on a small niche, passionate about what they are doing, and are intensely focused on providing value to their customers. I love that. Other shops or stores may offer more products—they may even cost less—but that doesn’t mean it’s valuable. Honestly, It’s tough to match the passion for quality and the deep desire to make something better that comes with running a small shop.

    The same thing goes for my business. I don’t want to be the shop that offers everything possible. Generic products and ideas wrapped with a shiny ribbon of business jargon. I want to provide a niche offering of identity and illustration that’s focused on the client, meeting them where they are at and helping them move forward. Carefully crafting a brand that pays attention to the small things, all those little details that add up to so much—because that’s worth something. Because that is valuable.

  • A few travel details from our flight to Prague this last summer.

  • The scariest moment is always just before you start.

    Stephen King