30 March 2012

One Size Fits All

Here are a few of both my favourite, and the most memorable logos, that you would just never get off-the-peg. 
All images borrowed from Google, for reference.

Perhaps growing up from the belly of the recession, we have seen an influx in the 'one size fits all' companies, offering off-the-peg logos for the unsuspecting new businesses to cash in on; to make-do with.

I have always found them such strange places. I mean, what is not to get about them - they are offering a cheap alternative for new businesses that do not have a lot of budget to play around with. However, in my view, it is a very dangerous alternative.

There is a particular logo floating around Worcester which really baffles me. It is obviously of the off-the-peg variety, because three different businesses claim to own it - how confusing that is to their customers! Not to mention the fact that all three businesses are in completely different sectors. This is
a really good example of why I feel that these off-the-peg solutions are so dangerous - and why they are not solutions at all.

It is more than tempting to edge along cautiously with money when you are first starting out - and it is
the sensible thing to do. However, what new businesses tend to underestimate is just how powerful their brand can be. Furthermore, I can't imagine it is very confidence inducing to buy a logo that a hundred other people may have - what can that say about you and your business? Not a lot.

I like to think of logos as faces. Each face is unique - no two are the same in the world - and that is what gives us our identity. It is the same with logo's - they should be all about you - your individual mark - the face of your business.

So, when considering what corners to cut when starting out, know that your logo is where you put those scissors away.

27 March 2012

Who is Joseph Kony?

Joseph Kony is the worst living criminal. He has abducted over 30,000 children and forced them to be child soldiers in central Africa. He remains at large because he is invisible to the world. Few know his name, even fewer know his crimes. This year we are making Joseph Kony famous. Because when he is, the world will unite for justice and demand his arrest.

Invisible Children

As I obediently settled down to watch the following video about Kony last night (my husband had been raving about it since he saw it) I was quite literally blown away. The video itself is a work of art - beautifully shot and by far the most powerful of it's kind that I have ever seen. I was completely awe-struck by the narrator / head campaigner, Jason Russell - what an amazing, amazing person; I was utterly and inextricably connected to what I was seeing and hearing.

As I sat, sobbing in the darkness, I knew this was something that would be pivotal in society - worldwide. It will be. As Jason says, this is bigger than Kony himself. It will prove that when united, we - the public - can accomplish anything, and that just brings so much hope. If we can bring him to justice, what other wrongs can we put right?

So please, if all you do today is watch this video, I promise you it will be the most inspirational thing that you do. And at the end of it, if all you do is share it, then you will have played a massive part, since spreading the word is the main objective here.


Want to get involved? Visit www.kony2012.com now and pledge your support - it takes 2 seconds and is completely free (financially and from obligation).

If you want to go further, you can also donate, or download a free media pack, containing all the bits you need to post Kony media around your City. But hurry, the aim is to cover our Cities over night, on April 20th.

Cover The Night
And that night, they found something more important than fear.
Register www.kony2012.com.

23 March 2012

Animal Rights - Human Wrongs

I have been meaning to write about this for some time, and since I have been affected and brought down by so many animal-related stories this week, I thought that now must be the perfect time. Although this has nothing to do with design, or art, it is to do with a great passion of mine, and therefore, a great passion of Leaff's.

I want you all to know just how difficult it is for me to write this post. I have so much emotion tied up in this subject, that I think I could spend my entire life writing about it - in the desperate attempt to make a difference. However, in order to get my point heard, I need to keep control, and deliver this concisely. On that note, I shall begin.

I care deeply about animal rights and I feel strongly that all animals should be treated with equal amounts of respect - as should all living things - yet I feel that it is a major misunderstanding among us as human beings.

I recently stumbled upon an article in the Mail Online, that demonstrates the point that I want to make in this post, perfectly. The article was on A bill of rights for dolphins, and the revelation from scientists that 'They're so smart that they must be treated as non-human persons'.  You can read the article here.

The Article

The article discusses the bill, which presents scientific evidence that supports the claim that dolphins are like humans, in the sense that they are self-aware, intelligent, emotional and have personality. Based on these findings, scientists, philosophers and animal welfare groups, have come up with a declaration of rights for dolphins.

These rights would also apply to whales, who - and I quote - 'would also be elevated above other animals by the list of rules, leading to whalers being classed as murderers'. Within these rights, whale watching trips would be regulated to respect the animals' privacy, and developers along with oil companies would be made to change the way they work, to consider the affects of their actions on these animals.

Not only does the bill state that dolphins should be 'valued as individuals' but that 'every individual member of the cetacean order - whales, dolphins and porpoises - has a right to life'.

The Point

You might ask what the negative is with this bill - from an animal lovers point of view - and there isn't any as far as these creatures go... I think the bill is spot on. What I find astounding, and what really riled me about this bill, is that to me, this should be the way that all animals are regarded.

While I understand that this bill has been focussed on this one group of animals - and that should it go through, it may open doors for lots more animals to be acknowledged - I still find it amazing that this bill is so dependant on intelligence. Why does it matter? To me, this says that animals with less intelligence should be treated with less respect - how stupid that idea is.

Perhaps my biggest gripe of all, lies in the statement that they 'have a right to life'. While I think that what these people are doing with this bill is wonderful, and should be looked up to, I am also outraged by the fact that this is just so suggestive that nothing - without our own level of intelligence, as human beings - is entitled to have a life.

If I am completely honest, I genuinely feel disgusted to be a human being, when I read things like this. I am more than angry with the stupidity and arrogance of our existence on this earth, and I am utterly fed up with the way that we think we own everything.

The Consequence

It is easy to think that these thoughts and actions just affect animals, but morally, they affect so much more - even ourselves. Is it really any wonder that today's generation are growing up to think that they can do what they want, when they want, how they want, and with no regard or respect for anything, or anyone around them? All we see is power trips and destruction of things that get in our way; wildlifeland; nature...

It is high time that we looked in the mirror at what we are doing to this beautiful planet of ours, and to ourselves. It is ironic that we value our intelligence so much - as the most advanced in the animal kingdom - yet we can make such massive errors of judgement and decision, without even realising it. We are animals of greed, in constant pursuit of power - over everything, and even each other.

The Difference

If all this post does is inform people of my feelings on this matter, then at least it has done that. Even better though, I hope that it will stir emotions and maybe even offer new perspectives.

I know that there are a lot of people out there that feel just the same as me, but my problem - and their problem - is the people who don't. Worst of all, I don't even think these people are necessarily lost causes; I think a lot of them just need to use their brains - to listen and consider other points of view and ideas - and of course, to learn to become leaders, rather than just switching their minds off and following the wrong crowd.

So here is to our planet and all living things. If you found this post interesting or moving in any way, please share it. I have really put myself out there with this, to try my best to make a difference - but I am just one person with a very quiet voice among so many. This could have put me off ever writing this at all - what difference can I make? Well, with your help, potentially quite a lot.

16 March 2012

NV Installations

Last week I told you all about some of our recent projects that we have been keeping busy with, and in it I promised to share things as they were finished.

I did want to jump back and follow on from my last design post this week, but it has been such a chaotic week, so instead, I have decided to share the installations for NV Hair & Beauty a little earlier than planned.

We spent last Sunday fitting them at the salon, and it was so much fun. This project was such a special one, as it was completely out of the box, which is just the kind of challenge that we thrive on. It not only used our design skills, but our art as well, along with our woodwork and DIY skills that we have grown over the years of renovating our house, and tackling personal projects.

The Making

It started with the NV sign. The owner of the salon, Beverly, had wanted something to sit on the wall in the foyer, at the entrance to the salon. Beverly had asked us for wall art, and we gave her this.

Having designed the whole of NV's identity, we were already at one with the brand, and we knew just how brilliant a 3D, wooden logo would look. So we measured, we did the maths, we got the tools out, and we rolled up our sleeves. Our dining room became a workshop once again, as we covered the floor in wood shavings and general mess. We were in our element!

Every fitting was sculpted into the wood, hiding seamlessly within, and allowing the sign to sit flush, and do all of the talking without disruption. Furthermore, a local hardware store allowed us to gain an exact match of NV's corporate green, which is just so fresh and vibrant.

The Fitting

So Sunday morning came and up we got bright and early, and crept down the stairs to make the last checks on the materials and tools, that we had packed ready to go. Covering all eventualities was vital!

First up, we hung the NV sign, and the bright pop of colour worked so well on the bare white wall outside the salon, as it picked up in co-ordination with the beautiful colour matched throughout the salon inside.

Next, it was time for the hair installation. Beverly had again asked us for some wall art for behind the reception desk, on a very narrow part of the wall, that was the leg of an arch. Based on a hair-inspired pattern that we created within NV's identity, we wanted to carry this through into the salon, and onto that part of the wall, as a large, and interesting installation; a talking point.

Having already prepared the technicalities, we were free to get ourselves knotted up in the vibrant green string, that again matched their corporate colour. From one fixed starting point, we weaved the string up and down the wall, to create this somewhat subtle yet very interesting effect.

We are extremely pleased with the results of the project, and most importantly, Beverly is too. In fact, we had this lovely bit of feedback from her this morning...

Another successful instalment by Leaff.  This time they came up with the idea, design and even handmade the artwork themselves.  They are a breath of fresh air, and are totally in tune with what I want. I have every confidence that every time I pass them a project it is going to turn out first class. They never disappoint!

If you live in Worcester, why not pop on over to the salon to see the installations for yourself? And maybe grab a treatment or two of course!

09 March 2012

Leaff on 'Friendship'

Since I have been too busy to write lately, I thought that this week, I would tell you a little bit about what we have been up to.

As you already know, the work volume at Leaff has sprung simultaneously with Spring! It is after all a very positive time of year, when lots of us are thinking about making some refreshing changes. We have the absolute joy of working with an array of fantastic small businesses right now, as well as some exciting new start-ups.

Soon enough I will be blogging about each and every project, but here is a quick round up of a few things that are to come.

Stephanie Saunders is a floral design company based in Evesham, and just launching. Stephanie
is extremely talented and creates the most beautiful arrangements for various events and occasions. Stephanie was trained by the very florist that did our own wedding flowers, and who is renowned for
her specialist skills in the local area and further afield. Exciting things are certain to come from Stephanie, so she will be one to watch for sure. We have just launched her holding page, which you
can view here, and we will be covering her printed materials soon.

Existing and loyal clients to Leaff, NV Hair & Beauty and the gorgeous Cottontails Baby have both recently graced us with outstanding projects to work on. We have been working hard on some very special installations for NV, which have led us into some unusual and fascinating places, and which
we are due to fit this weekend. They are sure to be major talking points within the salon, and we are
very excited to see them in their rightful place.

Following the Cottontails Autumn/Winter book that we created last year (pictured above) we are currently working on a mailer for their new (and beautiful) Spring/Summer collection, which can only be described as seriously fun. My inner child has again been allowed to roam free around the Cottontails brand, which is one of my favourite places! We will be sure to post pictures of both NV's and Cottontails' projects as soon as.

Well I think that it is rather fitting that we are talking about 3 very strong and successful business ladies here, when it was of course International Women's Day yesterday. I try extremely hard to encourage strong relationships with our clients, and these 3 ladies are great examples of how successful that
has been for me. I rather class them as friends as well as clients, and value our relationships greatly.

I mentioned on Facebook last week, that Charlotte from Cottontails had very kindly given me a Friendship Cake. I also mentioned that I was going to blog about it, and since we are on the subject
of women and friendship, what better time is there to share it?

The cake comes in it's mixture form, and the process is that you take care of it and feed it, for 10 days, until it is ready to bake. But, before you get to the baking part, you must carry on the tradition and separate the dough to give to your nearest and dearest as their Friendship Cake.

We got to baking stage Wednesday night, which was interesting, as we had never baked a sour dough recipe before. The cake was moist, and, well, yum. It was rich, full of interesting elements, sweet and dense, which I think is a pretty good description of a good friendship too. In fact, we loved it so much, that we read a bit more about it, and in the name of International Women's Day, of all of our clients,
and of friendship of course, we have typed the recipe up for free downloading, here. So take a minute to grab it, and whoever you are, wherever you are, we extend our hand of friendship for you to pass on, and on, and on; because we believe in strong relationships in business, and supporting each other.

02 March 2012

The Role of the Designer

Finally, finally, I have found an hour to write this long-over-due post. Please accept my genuine apologies for such lateness, but I have been overwhelmed with to-do lists for the last couple of weeks, that have prevented these quiet moments of reflection.

My last design post discussed brands, and what they really are - how they really work. I - hopefully successfully - displayed how each and every one of us has encountered a brand experience, and just how powerful they really are. It led me to think about this week's topic, about the role of the designer. 
So many of my posts inspire the next, so it felt like a natural progression into a topic that is more than close to home for me.

Design is a very powerful form of communication, and I take my role very seriously. It is not unheard of to have clients ask for a carbon copy of an existing brand, which is not their own - clients who think it is okay to rip-off other brands, and perhaps piggy-back off their success. There is a big difference between being influenced by a designers work, and just plain ripping it off. There has been a lot of these kinds of people floating around lately, stealing artists' creations and so forth, and so I think it is important to highlight that we meet them too - except we as designers are in a position to stop them. We must be responsible.

As I discussed in my post Brands - Who Needs Them? a successful brand must be true to the person behind it - it must be built on their morals, ethics and skills to communicate truthfully and honestly - and this of course goes for designers' own brands as well as their clients'.

Leaff for instance, is built on trust - to be a transparent, honest and trustworthy company. Leaff is as natural and organic as our lifestyle - it loves nature, tradition, and the environment; it is made up entirely of our morals. Last week I came across a company that was looking for a designer, and I pursued with interest. They looked like a really great little establishment where great work could be done, but after scanning their website, I found out that they sold fur products, and I instantly walked away. I am possibly the worlds largest animal lover, and there is no amount of design potential or money that could have made me want to consider it - it was a straight up no - because I am Leaff and Leaff is me. We are not separate with different points of view. It shouldn't be a choice between standing by your brand or standing by your own beliefs - they should be one and the same.

A good example of a designer not taking responsibility is a big story that hit the headlines a number of years ago now. A company was claiming to be hosting a 'winter wonderland' - I expect a lot of you will remember the fiasco as it made big news back in 2008. The promotional material promised things such as real reindeer and an enchanting nativity, yet expectant parents and excited children turned up to discover such sites as plastic reindeer and a painted backdrop of a nativity scene, in a drab muddy field. Needless to say, none of what was advertised was actually anything close to what was provided at the event and it caused unimaginable upset to the public. The man behind the organisation was already known to the police, and I have no doubt that anyone who met him would have sensed that he was trouble.

Now, his material may have been designed by himself - there was no naming of any input from a professional designer. However, I do know of a number of designers and companies who do not take responsibility for situations like this, and thus they are in my mind, an active participant of this immoral behaviour. Designers who have encouraged clients to display fake reviews and testimonials on their materials, to gain quick trust with their audience. To use stock images in place of their own - to make their work or premises look better than it is. This is not true to the client, and it is actively lying to the public - it is immoral and wrong - not to mention the fact that it is going against everything that a brand should be. Furthermore, I have no doubt that these designers are in a sense using the client - after all, 
a client who looks big and special in the designer's portfolio, will always boost their own reputation.

These designers' egos can be big and ugly, and they effectively quash the creative process in favour of 
a process that is cold and money driven. Any small projects are forcibly rejected with high fees and big projects are rushed out with little care or attention spent on them, in pursuit of faster payment. There is no room for creativity or any real design when the designer becomes driven by money like this, and again, no responsibility is taken for their roles in the projects.

I fear where the creative industry is going when I think of designers like this. It does not instil trust, and 
it gives design a bad reputation. I don't doubt that when the going gets tough, it changes the way that people do business and the way that they look at their own; when your back is against the wall and you have a family to feed, money has to play a part. But, I think how far you are willing to go to stretch your beliefs and morals is a big question.

Next time I will be looking at the culture of the 'one size fits all' - hubs for the pre-designed and 
pre-created - open 24 hours a day for off the peg purchase; why they exist, and what they do.
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