San Francisco Card Deck

Branding, Cards, Design, Illustration, Packaging, Places, Print, Uncategorized

This year, my client gift was a custom deck of playing cards featuring landmarks from San Francisco, a fun personal tribute to the city I love and that so many also love to love.

I am no stranger to designing cards, having created a custom deck of poker cards for a charity poker tournament, as well as two card-based games for Google (Data Center Manager and Launch & Iterate). I love games, and also love designing for them, so deciding on a poker deck as a client gift seemed like the perfect pair.

I started back in the summer, thinking how to organize the face cards. There are a variety of options, such as by neighborhood, or by personalities (techie, hippie, by park, etc. I decided on buildings and landmarks because they had a pretty decent correlation by category for each set of 4 face cards and also had a certain amount of historical and intrinsic value to the people of San Francisco. But, as no option was perfect for capturing every aspect of the city’s culture, heritage and history, some icons didn’t make it, such as Dolores Park, AT&T Park, or the Presidio, to name a few that got cut from the long list.

What I did include were 3 categories of landmarks for each set of face cards.

Kings

SF Card Deck KingsKings were represented by famous tall buildings or towers: Sutro, TransAmerica, Coit and the Ferry Building clock tower. I think I chose them as Kings purely based on height.

Queens

SF Card Deck QueensQueens were some of the beloved bridges that are either in or connect to San Francisco: Bay Bridge both east and western spans, Golden Gate, and the slightly less famous but delightful bridge in the Japanese Tea Garden in Golden Gate Park. Perhaps I chose them for queens because they hold some of the real power in the city, as far as connecting us to our neighbors.

Jacks

SF Card Deck JacksJacks comprised of other famous tourist attractions including the Painted Ladies in Alamo Square, Alcatraz Island, Lombard Street, and the Palace of Fine Arts, which coincidentally happened to celebrate its 100th birthday this year.

SF Card Deck 2Of course, the real character of the cards lies in the Joker, whom I aptly chose our dear Emperor Norton to fill the role of. It seemed all too appropriate. (Don’t know who he is? Check out the wikipedia page).

SF Card Deck 3

The final consideration for the cards was the color palette, which is very limited. These colors are the ones I’ve chosen for my personal branding, but it’s not a huge coincidence that the cadmium red (not quite international orange, but certainly in the spirit) and sea green are in play for this San Francisco-based designer.

SF Card Deck 1

Want a deck of your own? Email me, and I can mail you a pack ($20+shipping). While supplies last.

SF Card Deck 4

Austin’s Awesome

Cards, Design, Illustration, New Piece, Places, Print

Austin Thank You web

I recently spent a week in Austin and had such a fantastic time I decided to draw about it. Spending time with friends who just moved down there and knew the lay of the land was the added bonus, as we got such good insider knowledge on where to go (and eat!).

While my little illustrated thank you card to our fabulous hosts has a few inside jokes, for the most part, I think I captured the spirit of our trip with our adventures in learning the Texas Two Step at the honky tonkest joint I’ve ever seen, going to a UT Football game (the first time I’ve ever been to a college game, oh lordy), waiting in line for the most delicious brisket I’ve ever tasted, seeing the bats come out from under the bridge at dusk, enjoying live music and tasty beverages on Rainey Street, and playing a little bar trivia (and that’s not even mentioning the time we spent on the East side!). In addition, I thoroughly enjoy Austin’s mid-century modern style which can be found across the whole town in its architecture and interior design. Such a treat to see classic neon signage and amazing lettering used so well in so many places.  Such a fun place, I’d like to draw it even more.

Blocks Themed Birth Announcement

Cards, Illustration, New Piece, Print

Luke Announcements

Just finished the second in a series of birth announcements for my client (isn’t that the nicest way to say I’m making the announcement card for their second child, too?). Last time, we went with the owl theme in their nursery which I made into a little pop-up card. This time, I decided to do blocks, the ubiquitous childhood theme (that I adored oh so much as a child). I used some bright and warm colors, and found this amazing wood grain cardstock that added a wonderful texture to the block shapes. Putting my wonderful die cutting machine to work once again, I pieced together this new card on a light striped cream colored background that labeled what age each photo was taken at.

Jazz Garden Concert Poster

Advertising, Design, Illustration, New Piece, Posters, Print

Jazz Garden Concert Poster

My latest concert poster is complete. This year, the college’s end of year concert will feature a group call the Jazz Garden Band. I was asked to design a poster that would be inspired by the artwork they use on their CDs. I loved the idea of a Garden full of musical instrument shaped plants, so I set to work on an illustration that used one of the CD covers for color and style inspiration.

This is not my typical color palette. I actually found it rather difficult to settle upon the colors I was going to use, as I’m much more comfortable in my earth-toned world. But I think it was a great exercise for me to break out of my norm and, dare I say, jazz it up a bit.

How many instruments can you see?

Google Datacenter Manager: The Game

Cards, Design, New Piece, Print, Uncategorized

GoogleDataCenterGameCards-web

I was very pleased to work on this little side project that a Google employee requested design assistance on. He had in the past create a few Google fan/Google employee exclusive projects like t-shirts, and had the great idea to put Google into a card game that he and his fellow Google/Game enthusiasts could play during their lunch break.

We used the base of a game called Palastgefluster, a German card game that is apparently not as obscure as it sounds (even though I don’t think even my nerdiest of board game geeks I know have ever heard of it). But, my client knew it well and thought the structure would work really well to make a Google parody of it.

I’ll walk you through it and how we adapted it for Google, which by the way I should mention, this game is not sponsored by, condoned by, or paid for by Google, but they did give us our blessing on the proof which ensures that all the logos and colors were up to their specifications.

PalastActions

Anyway, the cards we were working off of were in a medieval/knight/castle style with lots of textures and shading. I figured that wasn’t quite right for Google, so cleaned up the background, and stuck to the bright solid colors that Google uses in its logo. We had to add an additional color to the palette, so chose an equally bright and vibrant purple, and have a neutral gray as well.

Actions-Show-web

Our plan with the Google version was to pair Apps with actions (seen above, the actions are a little cryptic in their native German – but each character you see actually represents a specific action you can take on your turn). In order to know which action each card represents, you can either piece together the illustration at the top of the card, or follow a cheat sheet that you keep beside you at all times. It’s easier when the actions are described as verbs instead of character names (also being in English is helpful, for those of us who are a little rusty on our German).

Actions-Green-web

The game designer/redesigner, Richard, paired up the actions with corresponding Google Apps that seemed appropriate for what action they represented. Maps = Show, YouTube = Discard/Draw, Android = Return to Hand, Gmail = Trade, Chrome = Swap, Search = well, Search, obviously, and Labs = No action. I thought it was quite clever.

So each player is associated with a color (above is the green set of the cards). There are 5 players with 7 sets of action cards, yellow, red, green, blue, purple, and 2 sets of neutral grey. Each player gets a set of score keeping cards and the above mentioned reference cards that explain exactly what each action means. You place your reference card on top of the score card and slide it down as you earn points.

Level-Indicator-web

Reference-web

The action cards are meant to be held uni-directionally, unlike playing cards where you can flip them any which way. But, each corner is marked with a few helpful codes to make it easier to play when fanned out in your hand. 1st, we have a shape associated with each color for anyone with color blindness issues (these shapes are also present on the score cards, top left). 2nd, we have a symbol associated with that action, which is repeated on the reference cards for an easy key as well.

Labs-web

Ok, then we also have SRE cards (stands for Site Reliability Engineering which apparently is responsible for keeping the Apps afloat on google.com. In game terms, these are the cards that when put into play disable certain functions, making the corresponding action card in your hand unplayable. The backs of those cards is a patch that Google Engineers get when they’ve gone through the SRE program – a little insider info.

MissionControl-web

You can see on the SRE cards that we named them based on where there are major Google hubs around the globe, so I popped in little google map images (hard to believe these images are already outdated since Google updated their maps graphics since we finalized this project!). The Mission control map is centered over Houston, which was my own funny idea about where “Mission Control” is (not really Google related, but who could disagree).

Rules-web

The only cards left are the rules, which honestly sound a little daunting, but once you play a round or two, it becomes very clear how to play. The game is relatively quick; a great lunch-time option. Minimum of 3 players is needed to play, and typically you play best of 3 rounds to determine a winner. I won’t go into the rules of how to play exactly, but you’re welcome to come and play with me some time if you’re that curious.

Anyway, I had a lot of fun working on this and am really happy with how it turned out. Looking forward to playing my first round!

Making a(nother) Move

Design

SFMOVE2013

I am moving again (something some friends of mine know too well, as it happens rather too often).

I made my typical “I’ve moved” graphic  (see above), but realized I never did post the little animation I made for when I moved (about this time) last year – my first big step moving from Silicon Valley into San Francisco proper. In fairness, it was designed to be mailed via snail mail, and I was super excited to use my awesome die-cutting machine to cut the intricate “monuments” of SF in card stock, then glue together to make one large fold-out card. I mean, I still could, but time never quite permitted that last year, so I turned the art into a quick HTML5 animation instead (click the image to see it in its full glory). For laziness  continuity, I have kept the same Golden Gate Bridge image in place for both graphics even though neither apartment is near or in sight of the iconic bridge.

Oh well. Here’s to (at least) another year in the beautiful city by the bay.

Print

Baby Shower Invite

Design, Invitations, New Piece, Print

BabyShowerInvite_06-13

I just finished up another piece, this time a baby shower invitation. The art direction was very simple: they are expecting a boy, the mom is using teal as her primary color, and she loves zebra stripes. So, working with that criteria, I picked a hue of teal I liked, paired it with a nice opposite  salmon-like tone, and threw in a nice warm gray/clay color to work as a neutral balance. To make the zebra striped background, I printed a 50% gray over the teal, as I thought black was going to be too harsh for anything baby related. The font I chose for the header is “Weston,” and I really liked how it was almost block-like, but still had the nice rounded edges. Literally reminding me of the blocks I used as a child. The body copy is “Banda,” which I felt matched the header copy, and looked complimentary to Weston when in lower case (the Weston I have does not have a lower case option).

Once we finalized the design, I gave my client 2 options. One was to just print the image as is, the other, more obviously awesome option, is to take that design and use cut paper to add some texture and dimension to the invite. My client readily agreed that the more tactile option was the way to go, so got to work converting my proof into the cuttable sheets based on the different shades of card stock I bought.

Print

While it definitely takes more prep, time, and glue, I find the results with using the combo of printing and cutting to be worth the effort. 

working

Where’s the Beef?

Design, Interests, Invitations, Packaging

beef1

It’s been a couple years ago now since I made this invitation, well before I started blogging about  my favorite projects, but I was going through some old stuff and realized this one was probably one worth sharing (not to mention writing down at some point so I don’t forget what went into it either).

Back in 2010, I co-hosted a beef tasting party. The idea being that I really had no idea what the difference between some very basic cuts of meat were, and while the idea of sitting down to a 12 course meal of side-by-side beef tasting sounds entertaining, it was simply going to be just too much meat for one person. SO…. why not throw a party?!

beef3Designing the invitations was an amazingly fun process. I spent a lot of time researching beef and what the different cuts were, as well as where on the cow they came from. I wanted to share a little of that knowledge with my invitees, hoping to entice them to participate in the experiment.

I made the invite itself into the shape of a cow, and cut 3 overlapping sections out of it to give the information what, when and where. I then included a vellum overlay with the cross section of the cow (I have a weakness for science diagrams – couldn’t resist).

For the envelope, I wrapped the invite into a piece of butcher paper, a kin to how apiece of meat from the butcher would be wrapped. I then created an address label that mimicked the pricing sticker that you get at the store, indicating weight, price per pound, sell by date (in this case, RSVP by date) and the barcode (which sneakily included the numbers of the date of the actual party), which then sealed the envelope shut.

BeefInvite-annonymous

MeatLabel

I also made a custom USDA seal of approval on each envelope, indicating it would be a swell party, as well as a return address sticker that had the “brand” from the “ranch” the meat came from. The one failing point of the project was that there were no beef-themed stamps available at the time I sent these out, so wasn’t able to complete the them as entirely as I’d hoped.

The party was a hit, I was able to enlighten myself, and a handful of friends about the different options we have for ordering and enjoying beef. I will admit, and I’m not ashamed to, this is probably the first of many parties I will host where the idea of how to design the invite was a strong driving force to make it happen versus just think about how cool it would be to do.

So anyway, I learned a lot about beef. All the research leading up to the day was more educational than just doing the tastings. I am happy to share a little bit about what I still remember (with the quick caveat that I am definitely not an expert, and if I got anything wrong, I’m happy to be corrected):

First off, there are 3 categories to grade the beef sold in the US: PrimeSelect, and Choice. They rate, in descending order, the quality and marbling (the fat:muscle ratio) of the meat. We aimed to get as many prime cuts as possible for our tasting, which we found to be somewhat difficult. Even Whole Foods carried mostly Select cuts. We ended up going to Los Gatos Meats (a disaster of a website, but a gem of a brick & mortar) for most of the meats. Also, to keep the playing field constant across the different cuts, I tried cooking them all with as simple a preparation as possible, allowing the flavor of the meat to be the only thing we were judging the taste by.

Now, where on the cow do the cuts come from? For this, I made a little cheat-sheet that outlines where a variety of the cuts come from on a cow. (Mind you, in Britain, they have very different terminology for all of this, so this is all American beef knowledge I’m dishing out.)

WheresTheBeef

So, I didn’t want to have a party with 50 cuts of meat, but did want to have a sampling from “all parts” of the cow. We didn’t get too crazy either – no organs or “non-standard” cuts were investigated; remember, we were hoping to understand our options when looking at a typical menu of meat options at a steak house.

For the tasting, we grouped the cuts into rounds of tastings based on which part of the cow they came from. We started on what are considered the cheaper cuts, and worked our way up, to what are generally considered the more expensive, highly desired cuts.

Kowal_LogoKowal_LogoFlank & Skirt Steak. This meat comes from the end of the ribs, called the flank or plate. It has a strong grain and should be scored and marinated for a while to be tenderized. This is your standard fajita or steak salad meat, and should be cut against the grain, or else you’ll be chewing it for a while. I did marinate these in some soy sause and brown sugar before broiling. The flank is typically thicker than the skirt, so cooks a little bit longer.

Kowal_LogoTri-Tip: The little triangle at the bottom of the sirloin diagram is basically where the tri-tip steak comes from, which is the piece we elected to try from this portion of the cow. Back in the day it was typically made into ground beef, but at some point, someone figured out that you could cook it low and slow and slice it thin for a low-fat steak option. I remembered having it as a kid smothered in barbecue sauce and sandwiched between french bread. I think for our party, we just did a dry rub and I seared and then baked it until it was medium rare.

Kowal_LogoPorterhouse: We’re moving into the short loin now. This is where you start seeing real steak names come into play. What is the difference between a Porterhouse and a New York strip?  Well, I’ll tell you. The porterhouse is your “t-bone,” the ubiquitous caricature for what steak looks like. You have a large cut of tenderloin on one side , and the other side of the bone is strip steak. Technically, a porterhouse is classified by having more tenderloin than even a typical “t-bone” but they’re hailing from the same part of the cow, so same cut of meat.

Bone-in New York: This is what is on one side of the porterhouse – the strip. It’s a muscle that is infrequently used on the cow, so still tender. It can be cooked bone-in, or cut away from the bone. We went with the bone-in option because we were told that those typically cook better because they retain the juices. No argument here.

Tenderloin: The tenderloin is a long a narrow piece that follows inside the spine and is very tender because it is not a used muscle. We took the more famous cut from there, the filet mignon. A medallion, sometimes wrapped in bacon, that is so soft you could sometimes cut it with a butter knife. We actually got a little extra experimental here and got one regular corn-fed cut, and another grass-fed to see if we could notice a difference. (the answer is yes).


Kowal_LogoShort ribs: These are typically braised. The cut is from the rib and surrounding meat, and they are cut into ~2″ chunks. You could also get them cut Korean-style, which is a much smaller slice and then it’s just marinated and grilled. We opted to try them the “old fashioned” Western way for our taste-test. After being braised, the meat is very tender and literally falls off the bone. It also really soaks up the flavors of whatever you braise it in, so the flavor of the meat is not typically standing on its own.

Bone-in Ribeye: This is the meat inside the rib bones, and unlike tenderloin, gets a fair bit of exercise in the cow, so is supposedly more flavorful. We went for the bone-in option again, like with the New York strip, but can also be cooked without the bone.

Prime Rib: This is essentially the same part of the cow as the ribeye, but cooked as a roast, with anywhere from 2-7 ribs wide. The main difference between the two cuts is how they’re cooked, and also a lot more fat has been removed from the ribeye than the roast.

That’s what we tried. I had my opinions, of course, on what the best pieces were. I made a form people could fill out as they tried everything so we could keep track of the different aspects of each kind of cut.

WheresTheBeef-SteakRater

Hopefully this was mildly informative. I look forward to the next food-themed party and invitation design. Also, the first photo in the post is credited to Carol Le, a terrific friend and photographer.

One Percent for Good

Advertising, Design, New Piece, Print

The company I work for, Sereno Group, began a charitable campaign last year called “One Percent for Good.” Our president and the company’s founder, Chris Trapani, is often inspired by Patagonia and wanted to emulate their “1% for the Planet” program. The goal: “In an effort to support the best of our community, Sereno Group has pledged to give 1% of our gross commissions to a charitable or community-minded group committed to making a positive difference in the communities we serve.” So saying, agents within each of the 6 offices of our company can choose to participate, donating toward the charitable-cause-of-choice each quarter. Each office works independently to choose their charity, and a committee of agents help choose charities, make contacts at those charities, and coordinate with me to have advertising made for their cause. Ads are taken out in local papers, posted on Facebook, and also sent out as emails and direct mailers to agent’s clients, friends and family. The purpose of the ads is two-fold: one to inform the communities about the campaign, and simultaneously to bring attention to the charities themselves, as often times the small, local charities can use as much help as they can get to bring awareness to their cause.

My role varies from project to project, but basically requires getting or taking photographs (either candid, on-site images, or setting up a photo shoot), creating ad copy, laying out the ad, and then scheduling the ad run dates with publications. We have a wonderful photographer we work with on a regular basis for such projects, but when he is unavailable, I have taken to filling in. I admit to not being a professional by any stretch, but have had the pleasure of making it work when time or logistics are strained. The last 2 ads I worked on had me on site at the Saratoga Senior Center, and the Paralyzed Veterans of America facility in Palo Alto.

Sereno_OnePercent_Ad_SASeniorCenter_Bunnies

 

The Saratoga Senior Center is a place that offers a variety of classes and programs for active seniors, as well as an adult-day-care center for seniors who need a place to come to where they can socialize, but also have assistance if needed. We were able to coordinate a day with them where they got to visit with pets; on this day, it was 2 very sweet bunnies.

Sereno_OnePercent_Ad_ParalyzedVets

 

The Bay Area & Wester Chapter of the Paralyzed Veterans of America is a wonderful facility that provides services and social activities for paralyzed veterans and is on the same campus as the Palo Alto VA, so easy access for those who also require medical needs. They are fully independent though, and subsists on donations and grants. I was happy to meet and befriend Jessica, a member of the organization who utilizes the facility for recreation and is also one who gets sponsored to attend the National Wheelchair games. She was super helpful to me, being my model and showing us around the facility.

The biggest challenge in every ad we work on is expressing the feeling of hope and support with one captivating image, and giving a short and concise description of our program AND the goals of the charities we are supporting.

It is great to have a chance to work on projects that have an impact, are challenging, and require me to break out of my day-to-day routine.

 

http://www.serenogroup.com/onepercent