Desk Notes

Hello Seattle

Well, it’s been a while. I’m writing a letter to Seattle. Yes, I do that sometimes. Care about my cities that used to be part of my life; in some way, some important way. Sometimes. This

Design Kompany’s Kornerhaus | Salon for ‘Launch’, Photo: Victor Ng, Seattle 2008

is a picture VN took for us when he was part of our team in Seattle in 2008. It was a salon. I was eavesdropping today on a conversation in a place downtown in Ho Chi Minh City (which is lately where I’m parked), and the word ‘salon’ came up. I swore they were going to talk about hair, but nope, it was salon the way I know salons. Talking. Together. About a topic that matters to all of the people who are there. This is something I love to make space for, S P A C E was born out of those things, those conversations and myriad twists and turns that led us to the cloud to interconnect. SinceI kept moving around, meeting people everywhere, the spaces became more and more international–virtually–from about 2014 til now. I’m still engaging there, but with fewer invitations now than ever. It’s simple this way. Keep it quiet, keep it close to you, personal, and real. Reality. Sincerity. Trust.

These are the things.

Where is LT these days, I wonder? Making lovely portrait photos? I wonder how the whole group of people I knew have found their way, now. Is MA in Seattle or somewhere else now? How about MW? I wonder if she knows how much I appreciated that run to that store to buy that thing for me that time. It was lovely. [deleted]..

‘Home’ is the lead story of today’s issue of S P A C E, by the way. S P A C E | HCMC, ‘Airport.’

Here’s a link.

https://gumroad.com/designkompany#Jtdre

Thanks.

Wherever you go, there you are.

Experiments in Expression · Stories · The Muse

Hey Seattle, I made you a mix tape

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

100 Conversations · Desk Notes · WORK

Brand identity design for a Seattle cafe, 2010

I want to share an early brand identity design project from our archives, this one’s from 2010.

A brand identity design project that began like this. A query came in by email. From Seattle. We had already moved to the East Coast, but barely, and this blog was optimized at the time for search for Seattle branding. This was swell before everyone in the universe had a blog or microblog, and way, wayyyy before instagram. I think MySpace was going on, back then. So if you were in Seattle or nearabouts, and seeking designers who specialized in branding, then, yeah. We popped up.

Taking the call in Durham NC, we got to talking about it. The identity, the feeling, the vibe. The concept. I park for a while on Concept, when I’m leading a project, and this one was me on the creative lead, for sure. Because of stylistics: the image, the emotion, all of that, pointed to the aesthetic of a past version of DK. One that liked to play with… paint.

I did this. I played around with paint. Brushstrokes, lettering. It was good.

Design and identity design

So what happened was that I got to the studio, of ours, in Durham, and we set thing sup a little differently. Instead of using the computers so much, we started cutting papers, collaging, I even tried a quilling technique, to see what might emerge. Play. Again, play. I see that now in all our past works.

In the end, I lettered the name of the cafe with a thick brush, going out of my usual style of using a pen, or line art, or vectors. The feeling that the cafe was going for, and this was well before it was starting, I think it was under construction when we were calling at that time, well yeah.

Anyway, it was not the usual style of DK’s (our usual style is often described as ‘clean, modern.’) It was something else. A different mood. Still, the idea of a design brief is to outline that so well that you can make it work out, even if that means researching and learning more and studying and trying things. We love trying things. So this was a chance.

I heard that the Row House Cafe has since closed, but it was an interesting challenge, for sure.

It reminds me a little bit of the time we did the brand identity for a new restaurant in Ireland, will have to fish out those files now, too, from the archives…

Desk Notes · WORK

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.

Desk Notes · WORK

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.

100 Conversations · A Philosophy of the Moment · Desk Notes · Found in the Field · The Muse · WORK

Brand identity design for Seattle’s nightclub, Baltic Room, 2010

DK designs and sketches a brand identity for a Seattle nightclub, 2010

 

In the 2000s DK got to go to a lot of gigs, since we were based at that time in Capitol Hill, amongst all the buzz and arts and nightlife of this bustling neighborhood in Seattle.

One of my favorite venues was the Baltic RoomIn the 2010s thanks to TH, an architect, DK got to rebrand that nightclub.

 

‘Design is making meaning’

Cool to see that they are still using our design…. 

T., after all, had referred us. She had been one of our first clients. A combination of: a shared aesthetic appreciation of the beauty of chance encounters, plus a common love of jazz (which is after all improvisation in space on the spot), was what led to us meeting T in the first place. ‘I’ve been looking for you,’ T had said. ‘To do the design for my new company. When I break out to do my own company, you’re my designers: I just know.’

‘And that’s how a thing starts, sometimes.’

The Baltic Room rebrand was cool. Was fun to be a part of the process of seeing things update, and guiding the identity redesign by the usual process of ours. We just ask a lot of questions, at the start. It’s like 90% of the whole design project is happening at he start. You have to have that thrashing period so everyone can get the point where they can be honest and say what they really want to say instead of trying to please someone else at the table.

Somewhere along the way there’s a harmony that you can find… I guess design is like music in that regard, too… it just comes into shape on the spot when the mood is right and the people are in the spirit of being ‘on,’ intellectually and creatively, to do the jam, together.

I want to give people a chance to think clearly and long-term, so they don’t have to redo everything later.

Thought of it for two reasons this week.

  • One: I’m working on a few more issues of S P A C E to round out our Autumn 2019 collection, which includes stuff from the Baltic States visit , and
  • Two: I always liked electronica but I kind of can’t get over this:

Despite myself, I like it.

A Philosophy of the Moment · Desk Notes · Stories · WORK

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.