Hey Seattle, I made you a mix tape

Here it is.

Dear Seattle… Reading the news, thinking of you. With a long look from afar (very, very far). It’s been 2004… so, what’s that, 16 years?, since I started this studio in Seattle, out of an apartment in Capitol Hill on a laptop with my best friend, Akira Morita.

I decided to make you guys a mix tape. I’m not sure if the article that made me think up the idea’s worth clicking over to, but a particular paragraph was pretty much me going… “Yup…”’ Here’s the part that’s good: ‘… but Gen Xer’s — the latchkey kids of the ’80s and ’90s — are uniquely qualified for social distancing. In their youth, they spent hours alone in their rooms, watching after-school specials, doing homework, making mixtapes for their friends. To this day, they’re perfectly content holed up at home and finding ways to entertain themselves.’

For those of you who still read this blog, thanks.

made you this mix tape, ‘Dear Seattle’…

Here it is..

‘Dear Seattle’

A mix tape.. <3 dipika

 

A

 safe hands by world health organization’s dr. tedros adhanom ghebreyesus (@DrTedros)

don’t stand so close to me (the police)

look sharp ! (roxette)

posse on broadway (sir mix-a-lot)

yoshimi battles the pink robots (flaming lips)

 

B

 

ghen cô vy with English subtitles (nioeh x khắc hưng x min x erik)

play with me (taylor eigsti)

sleeping in (the postal service)

staring at the sun (simple kid)

 

A

safe hands (world health organization)

There are simple things we each must do to protect ourselves from #COVID19, including 👐 washing with🧼 & 💦 or alcohol-based rub… [Note: this is a great video to show you how to do it super correctly!] 

don’t stand so close to me

look sharp!

posse on broadway

yoshimi battles the pink robots

B

ghen cô vy

play with me

sleeping in

staring at the sun**

**Erm, and about that hat… Yup. I know Shelby NC. HT RJ and AP

Brand identity design: Capitol Hill Chamber of Commerce, circa 2006

One of the first gigs we had at Design Kompany was for the rebrand of the Capitol Hill Chamber of Commerce, back in 2006. CHCC, according to this neighborhood website, has since closed.

 

Time, design

Akira Morita took the lead for DK on this design, working with me on it, and through that process, discovering as we went, with our clients, what the goal would be for the image-making. In other words, its concept.

Concepting well means a lot of talking. About why.

And that’s not always easy, especially when a group is just forming.

Being based in Seattle, the ‘how we go about this’ was heavily influenced, naturally, by agile methods. You try, you test, you see, you rework. We started sketching a lot, presenting in pencil, not overworking or over designing, and continuing to develop ideas until something was feeling right—and not just for one or two people, we all know what I’m talking about here, but the collective group. The whole.

Timing is everything, sometimes. We were there, in Seattle, after Ireland, at that exact time when the Capitol Hill Chamber of Commerce was just getting started. Just. Like. Us. DK had a new office, a storefront one, and right up the street from us, a few blocks over, in the same neighborhood, was the CHCC.

‘Let’s play’

Our office on E. Olive Way was base for DK for about a year, which was very visible on its streetfront, and, as such, quite easy for people to discover us.

Then we moved to our apartment, and later, up the hill, past 15th, a few blocks down from WET and Fuel. Many en evening would I spend at the Washington Ensemble Theater. Perhaps another indication that one day, I’d be writing mini plays and springing them on people in unexpected cafe, restaurants, eaters, and other people’s literary events. Anyway, after Olive Way and the other place and some other stuff that took place in between, DK shifted to a house by a park with a tennis court and playground.

We called it Kornerhaus.

There, we kept our PLAY going.

Akira Morita made the PLAY piece pictured on the wall // Photo by DK Seattle 2008

The spaces where we most got a kick out of gathering with our clients also worked well for making parties.

Sugar, Pop, Dazzle, Flourish, and Gather, to name a few. (Some people who are reading this blog may recall it…)

Yes, we’re still DK.

Yes we’re still at it.

Making things, not always design the way we used to design,  because that was then, and this is now. It’s experiences that we are specifying bounds and briefs for now, experiences for people to gather and share. Meaningfully, not trivially. At least, that’s what it was from 2013-2019. Next is next.

Content matters, to us. Much more than ‘logos’ or ‘looks.’ It’s getting people together, still, mixing it up if we can. Importantly, as always, in ways that invite the new and curious, which precipitates that magic thing of self-discovery, too, along the way.

Designs, and even life decisions, from these openings, somehow make themselves.

 

Shifts

Six years in Capitol Hill… intriguing to see how much the place changed, in our journey there, with it.

Looking around on the web, it’s cool to see that the CHCC had used our design right up until the end of their days, more than a decade after we created it.

Longevity.

I like that.

Progression and playfulness with the ideas… looking back, I see it’s a common thread, with our design works. We want to always leave room for interpretation, so the in-house designers can play with an idea, too, make it a little bit their own, and breathe new life into it, when the time calls for that.

Shifting, poetically but also purposefully.

Like any relationship, things change.

But how you allow for growth–that’s the key to sticking-with-it-ness.

All of that…

To say….

The beginning was a fun thing. I remember it.

This design came into being. A concept…

A brand identity scheme, with colors, and this logo…

The year after Akira and I finalized it, handing off the CD with final files (yes, I said ‘CD’), I went by to see how things were going. Smalltalk and the like. They were happy with it. Like many other designs that came after, people were responding. Clients smiled. People enjoyed the connexion. And the image–the connexion-making start point–made it begin to begin. Relationships, after all, have to start from something.

We soon started getting known a little bit around Seattle, I think. Mostly for our ‘clean, modern’ design style (winning new gigs, mostly for architects, after that).

Here are the business cards (photo by Victor Ng):

Was interesting.

Was simple.

Was… one ending, for a chapter, for us.

On this blog, back in the late 2000s and for some time after, I used to go through and write down all of everything that we did for everyone. A whole bunch of text, yeah, you thought this was long. And pictures.

A bunch of, say, process pictures, or the mood boards we made, even in-progress pictures. I blogged it all.

Reason is, I think, because I value transparency. Showing the process. And encouraging conversation, throughout. Even with people on the sidelines, or just watching, or walking by our office to peek through the window, to say, ‘What’s that?’

Maybe the chance encounter will invite a fascinating insight.

You just never know.

I continue to invite and connect people, to our programs, projects, and real life salons, to this very day, wherever I am. Reflecting. Hm.

Now, I wanted to push the envelope.

Again.

 

New beginnings

So that’s why, in February 2020, DK is opening again for graphic design and communication design commissions.

Remote. In person ( I can tell you where we’ll be)…

Get in touch.

‘Design is making meaning’

Akira Morita‘s old portfolio page on Behance has more about the work we were doing around the time of the Chamber, if you are curious, while we were in Seattle in the early 2000s.

Meantime, since then, we’ve been changing and growing quite a lot. But, while iterating, DK’s core team of Akira and me, along with a handful of coming-and-going teammates and a small circle of collaborators, continue to make headway by discovering, together. Usually by making up projects, and testing them out. In the field. In real life. It’s so great.

Doing this is our work.

Both of ours, separately, as well as here at DK, together.

Spacemaking for discovery. 

In different fields, with different people, and amongst different palettes, backgrounds, storytelling styles, and with new people, too. It’s always evolving, around here.

To keep in touch to find out more, join our mailing list. The mailing list for 2020 is called, ‘New chapters.’

Here’s a link.

12 years ago, DK rebranded Seattle’s Northwest Asian Weekly

Cool.

The Seattle community paper, Northwest Asian Weekly, is still using our rebrand all this time later. I’m updating our portfolio here to reflect the highlights of our past work in design, and communications, and so, wanted to post about it here.

 

How we rebranded a 25-year old paper

Everyoneeditors, copyeditors, publisher, designers, other staff, occasionally those passing by, and DK worked together to come up with a fresh update, a new template set, typeface selections… the works.

Concepting took a good effort, but it was important, for us, to get the story first. So we sat. And talked. For several sessions, just setting things up so the real talking could begin. In this way, we could do what all designers love to do when they are writing their own creative brief: be present, listen, and make sure you hear everyone. Goal, for DK, then, was to gather inputs from the full team at NWAW. 

But it started with the whole big metaphysical question, 25 years after you got started, ‘Who are you now?’

A box over the i, which you can see accented in the design for the masthead, was inspired by the answer we found, together, through dialogues at a round table. Which was, ‘A window to the world.’

Will need to find the better resolution files from our redesign process, but I’m terribly disorganized with old old files, as most people are, and it’s fine, but why I bring this up is because I do recall the file I placed onto the CD of files I had delivered when this project ended, which was, ‘Brand Story: A living document.’ A word file, meant to be something that future editors and designers could visit, and reshape, as time moved on and needs changed. These things happen. It’s inevitable. But a good design leaves space for that… leaves room to grow, and change. To me.

 

Writing & Publishing

Since I personally love community journalism, I was hawpy to be part of this project, and lead the effort to shift over to a modern, clean design from the original style.

In 2013, When DK got set up in Cambodia, I began to write for the paper, too. I sent in this column, ‘The Village Report,’ to the NWAW. It was easy to think of the idea, given what DK had gathered about what the aim, vision, story, and idea was for the redesign. ‘Window to the world.’ Made sense. It fit. It worked.

One Fish, Blue Fish for Miyabi Japanese Restaurant

HERE’S THE NEW logo and color scheme for Japanese restaurant Miyabi.

Most of the people who hire Design Kompany work in professional services. So it’s always a treat when someone comes along who just likes our process, and wants to try it out. Miyabi came to us because they really wanted to establish themselves as a family-friendly Japanese restaurant. (Most of their customers were people visiting the just-next-door Toys R Us.) It was important to nail the brand message first: “Fun, delicious, and quirky.”

Handy, too, that AM is a native speaker of Japanese. (I’m medium. I’ve passed for Japanese once or twice in telephone calls. Always a hoot.)

Here’s the original post.

A Japanese restaurant asks DK for a logo, menu, and business card design.

Creating a Japanese restaurant’s brand identity

A JAPANESE RESTAURANT IN the TUKWILA, WA area asked us to design a new brand identity when they realized they wanted a change.  They’d been in business for a while, but wanted a new image.

Still, Miyabi wasn’t 100% sure what story it wanted to tell through the rebrand and design for the new look.

In addition to a menu, we also created a series of ads to run in local hotel directories, and Japanese-language telephone directories, too. We made a winter holiday postcard with this design, too, which was a lot of fun!

Original post

Here’s the new brand Design Kompany made for the Japanese restaurant Miyabi.

Design Kompany came up with the total brand image: a custom typeface for ‘Miyabi,’ custom illustrations, the color palette, and the typefaces to pair with the new logo.

At first the owners of this Tukwila restaurant thought they might like a sleek, Japanese bistro look that would be upscale and posh.

But after talking with Design Kompany, it became clear that “young people looking for a fancy date spot” just isn’t Miyabi’s target audience.

Families come here. Local regulars. And business folks who happen to be in the area, which is near Sea-Tac airport.

“After going through [the questionnaire] with you guys,” Miyabi co-owner Hisako Shirakura said, “we realized we want a look that says ‘we’re fun.’

“We want people to know they can come here and have a nice time. And… we want to surprise them.”

“Quirky, in other words? A little… off-center?”

“Exactly!”

So we brought to the team Design Kompany illustrator Aaron Barker. “I was really enthusiastic about working with Design Kompany on a sushi restaurant’s logo,” he says. Aaron drew the fish and created the font for “Miyabi”.

I tried many ‘style’ concepts, from sketchy pencil to crisp vector graphics, abstracted letterforms to kawaii, or ‘Japanese cute.’ I’ve spent a lot of time around fish my whole life, visiting aquariums, commercial fishing… And in high school I even took a workshop with the famous fish illustrator Ray Troll. –DK illustrator Aaron Barker.

Keep an eye out for more from this up and coming artist, who sometimes signs his drawings “Aaron Bee.”

New business cards for Miyabi came out at the end of 2006.