Category Archives: graphic design

Redesigning the College Snuggie

Let’s face it. There’s been a lot of talk about Snuggies in pop culture this year. “The blanket with sleeves” came out of nowhere and gripped the nation. From themed bar tours to the Washington Post’s annual Peeps diorama contest, you’re never far from Snuggie’s influence.

And if that weren’t enough, the brains that brought you the outstanding three-color collection have upped their game and expanded their product line to include… collegiate licensed Snuggies!

If you haven’t seen them in their full glory, take a gander:

Picture Source: Blanket Wars (Even better, this picture is from a blog post entitled “OU Will Choke Versus Texas.”)

How does one make an eyesore like the Snuggie even more hideous? Make it look like it was made from the contents of the clearance rack at the fabric store. That fabric ain’t just for pajamas anymore!

Though I’m not (yet) a member of the cult of the Snuggie, I understand why people would buy them. Who doesn’t like being warm? And being able to eat whilst wearing a blanket? Or the ability to change channels without exposing bare arms to the draft of a room?

I also understand why people would want collegiate Snuggies in particular. Every sports fan relishes the opportunity to show off a little team spirit. I mean, if I got a Snuggie, you’d be darn sure I’d get a college team one. (Looks like I’d have to get Texas though, because the makers of Snuggie don’t offer a UVA one. Good research on that one, I must admit. They know their audience, and UVA alums likely wouldn’t bother with a Snuggie: it would clash with their ties or pearls.)

Well, instead of continuing to mock Snuggie, I’ve decided to turn over a new leaf and offer a design suggestion: K.I.S.S. (Keep it simple, stupid.) Good design should be minimalist, simple and straightforward. Not cluttered.

How should Snuggie go about this? Pretend to make team sweatshirts, just with tons more fabric. Like this:

Or this:
Yes, UVA can have its own Snuggie after all!
Texas should prominently display the Longhorn logo on burnt orange. Carolina the interlocking NC on its signature Carolina blue hue. Virginia Tech would use the interconnected VT. Florida: the Gator. The Jayhawk for Kansas. You get the picture. Make it simple. Make the primary team color the star, not the blinding repetition of several logos.

How would you redesign the collegiate Snuggie? Would you make them like replica jerseys with the ability to personalize a name and number on the back? Add a belt in a contrasting color? Build in a foam finger at the end of one sleeve? Share your ideas in the comments section!

Final two pictures edited from this image.


Filed under ACC, college basketball, college football, commercials, fashion, graphic design, marketing, mascots, sports, Texas, UVA

Easily distracted F, ISO way out of a reading rut

Elaine: These are good people, Jerry. They read!
Jerry: I read, I read!
Elaine: Books, Jerry.
Jerry: Oh.

I was watching this Seinfeld episode earlier tonight and caught myself laughing uncontrollably. Who doesn’t read books? Oh right, I don’t.

I do read, of course, and more or less constantly. I’m just reading blogs on my RSS feed, scouring the news online and reading interesting articles my friends share with me via Google Reader and Twitter.

Anyway, my problem, like Jerry’s, lies in books. It’s not that I don’t enjoy them. I have become quite the collector over the years, accumulating a pretty impressive library. Disliking books isn’t the problem… it’s that I start too many simultaneously and can never finish them.

It strikes me that the last book I read from start to finish might actually be Hey Whipple, Squeeze This! by Luke Sullivan two, make that three semesters ago. Ouch. I’ve probably written a book’s worth since then!

I’ll end up starting a new book I’m excited about, read a few chapters, and then next thing I know I’ve picked up another book and started reading it too, before finishing the first one. Then another. And another. Next thing I know I’m knee deep in five or ten books and never finish any of them. Case in point, here’s a photo of what I’m reading now:

What?! That’s 10 books! Yeah, it’s a problem. But they’re all worth reading, so I can’t quit! I need help! Heaping amounts of help — and sanity.

So what am I reading? And why? Here’s a rundown of the 10:

  • The Appeal, by John Grisham. I love everything this guy writes. And this guy can write one helluva suspenseful legal thriller. I’m on about page 138 in this one, which is easily the furthest along I am in any of them.
  • The New Rules of Marketing and PR, by David Meerman Scott. It’s about the PR and marketing in the digital era and delves into issues like social media. Couldn’t say a lot more about it since I’m only on page 15 or so.
  • Dixieland Delight, by Clay Travis. This book’s about a guy who goes to a home football game at every SEC school in one season and reports about the tradition, tailgating, food and cultural spectacle of each event. Each chapter covers a different program and it’s a little heavy on the frat guy-ish “hot ladies” talk. Otherwise it’s an interesting read and I love the idea. Wouldn’t mind going on the same adventure myself. I’m on page 98, thanks in a large part to riding the Metro in DC a lot this past weekend.
  • Cutting Edge Advertising II, by Jim Aitchison. As you might guess this is about creating cutting edge advertising that breaks through clutter. It’s probably a pretty good read, but didn’t make much for beach or pool reading this summer. I still chug along on it occasionally though. I think I’m on about page 60, but I’m starting to forget things I read about in it earlier.
  • Adobe Flash CS4 Classroom in a Book. This is a how-to book intended to teach me how to use Flash. An admirable personal goal, but I’m only on about page 15. Must keep trucking on that one!
  • The Non Designer’s Design Book, by Robin Williams. The book is probably great if you’re clueless about design, but I’m using it to make sure I have my bases covered before tackling anything much more advanced. It’s OK, but nothing spectacular. I just want to learn from the beginning, so this should be a breeze. Too bad I’m on page 22.
  • Southern Belly: The Ultimate Food Lover’s Guide to the South, by John T. Edge. This book’s a little disappointing, but I love food, especially fried delicious southern food… don’t even get me started. I keep it around for obvious reasons, because not only do I like tasting food, but I love talking food. And we all know I have a soft spot for geography and the south so, why quit? It goes state by state, and I’m on the first one.
  • The Choice, by Nicholas Sparks. Disclaimer: yes, I’m quite cheesy and I love Sparks books. Yeah, this is a romance story, just like they all are, and I know he’s going to break my heart again. But I love the ride, and Sparks is an incredibly gifted writer. I can’t resist… until another book snags my attention. I’m on page 113.
  • Graphic Design School, Third Edition, by David Dabner. This book is excellent! Sometimes I wish I went to design grad school instead of advertising grad school (I stress sometimes), and this book does an excellent job of walking you through the basics of good design, element by element. I’m largely self taught when it comes to things artistic, so I appreciate it immensely. I have it on loan now from the library but really should cough up the $45 to buy it (and by $45 I mean probably $15 if I look hard enough). In the meantime, I’m on page 38.
  • And last but not least, Hockey for Dummies, by John Davidson and John Steinbreder. I’m interested in one day working in sports and there’s the possibility that that opportunity could be in hockey. It wouldn’t hurt to know more about it. Also, for some reason I follow and am followed by tons of people working in NHL on Twitter. I’ll admit, that’s what really made me interested in learning more and picking this up at the library. I’m on page 15 though, but that’s because I’m such a hockey dummy (OK, novice) that I’m reading all the prologue business too.

Well there you have it. Anyone have any suggestions for an easily amused/easily distracted person in the midst of 10 books? Where should I go from here? Has anyone read any of these and think any are must reads? Any I should dump or throw off a bridge? How do you stop yourself from picking up new books and follow through and finish what you start? Can I ask any more questions?

In the meantime, I’m going to stew on this quote from one of my favorite authors.

“The man who doesn’t read good books has no advantage over the man who can’t read them.” –Mark Twain

In honor of Mr. Twain, I’m going to read the Grisham book until I fall asleep tonight. And maybe when I’m done I’ll finally start The Adventures of Tom Sawyer. Or The Prince and the Pauper. Sweet dreams, world.

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Filed under advertising, books, college football, food, graphic design, Seinfeld, The South

Thunderstorm of miscellany… and welcome 2009!

Hi all! Hope your holidays and 2009 are treating ya well so far! Apologies for going underground again… It’s been a whirlwind with graduating, job hunting, moving across the country, the holidays, and visiting with friends and family. An enjoyable whirlwind however.

Hopefully I’m back for a while, but here’s a smorgasbord of thoughts… Sorry in advance, it’s quite the hodgepodge:

  • Should I get a job immediately? Or should I take up other pursuits for a while before getting back into the working world? While I’d prefer to get a job sooner rather than later, I’m not killing myself to get my job tomorrow. Here’s an interesting article in last week’s AdAge weighing in on the merits of waiting versus full speed ahead. Good comments in feedback section too.
  • Holy monkey I’ve become so into Twitter. If measured only by time spent on the network these past few weeks, it’s safe to say it’s surpassed Facebook as my favorite social network. Granted I use them for totally different purposes. Will post on this topic soon.
  • Building an advertising portfolio online is quite the daunting task. It’s consumed my life the past few days. I’m learning a lot, but am realizing it’s quite the steep learning curve. However, things to thank for my little bits of success thus far: the few HTML tags I retained from CS 105 or whatever computer science class I took undergrad, and copious use of tips on forums. Thanks internet… though I have a long way to go.
  • I’m in love with Adobe’s Classroom in a Book series. These books introduce the reader to the Adobe software of choice and assign relevant projects that can be completed step-by-step. Cheapest prices I’ve seen since the release of their CS4 line has been on Amazon with about $34 per (Adobe’s price is around $52). They have titles available for Photoshop, Illustrator, InDesign, Dreamweaver, Flash and more. I have varying experience with the first four, but am hoping to add Flash to my repertoire in the coming weeks thanks to this series (and Christmas). And I’m a big fan of offline solutions to software problems and reading something tangible.
  • Not into the clunky book idea? You can always try tutorials. They’re available for tons of graphic design and web software and other computing topics. Examples of a few you could find: creating games for the Wii using Flash CS3, essential training for bloggers, and typographic principles. I’m already making notes in my head of potential classes I’d like to take on the site. You can get access to ALL the training on the site for $25/month (as often as you want). Or I recommend using this (copy and paste): to get a free 7-day trial before committing.
  • I have tons of commercials I’ve seen lately that I’d like to comment on. Stay tuned.
  • I have decided that I’m going to treat Feb. 1 as the new year as far as resolutions go. That way, I can use all of January to come up with a good one. And, should I choose a gym- or fitness-related resolution, everyone else will have broken theirs by then, so I’ll have less competition for treadmills, rowing machines and the pool.
  • I have the best family and friends in the world. Seriously. Way to make 2008 rock and I’m looking forward to the continued fun in the new year. Stay warm all!

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Filed under advertising, goals, graphic design, jobs, Twitter, web design

Chuck Brown goes wild

Today we wrapped up our portfolio class with the end-of-semester critique. Everyone finished in time and it was nice to see my classmates’ work (and my own) come to fruition. We got some helpful feedback from industry pros which enabled us to gauge our progress on “making our books.”

No matter how you slice it though, it’s been an exhausting journey. As my friend Stacey put so precisely early this week, “P2 [intermediate portfolio] is full of growing pains.” I agree. Unlike in P1 (beginning portfolio), we’re sorta at the point now where we know when our stuff sucks, but are still grappling at making things good or great. There’s a whole lot of being satisfactory or adequate, but not special. Needless to say it’s frustrating, but all part of the learning experience.

Anyway, like all things in life besides the really important things like family and friends, you just have to remind yourself “it’s just advertising.” We all get sucked into our own little worlds and forget about the world going on outside. We don’t return phone calls. We go underground for unknown periods of time, conversing only with others in the same situation. Our tempers are short and we’re ready to pounce on unsuspecting copy center employees, should they mess up our order or coloration on our final ads. We worry about the most infinitesimal details… “I don’t have time to get coffee, I have to redo the Gaussian blur.” To quote my undergrad econ professor, Ken Elzinga, “In the long run we’re all dead.” How much difference will that extra 10 minutes for a snack or caffeine break make in the long run? Will it be the difference between a lower and higher score at critique? Probably not.

But who am I kidding? I got sucked into the madness just as much as everyone. As usual, seeing everyone else stressed out frazzled me as well. Call it pathetic, but I was glad for it to end because for the first time in a week I sat down and watched three TV shows in a row. I stress the word watched, because I’ve been listening while graphic designing/art directing or cutting my foamcore for the final mounted ads for the past week, but hadn’t truly enjoyed the art of watching TV.

Going back to “it’s just advertising,” a friend of mine pointed me in the direction of this unbelievably hilarious YouTube video parodying agency life. I laughed loudly at least six times during the video, and thought over and over again “this is what I’m going to school for.” I think if you can’t laugh at yourself you won’t be able to survive in the working world. It was the perfect thing to watch after a day, week, month, and really, semester of portfolio obsessing.

I love that it doesn’t miss a single detail. Egotistical creatives* driven by the incessant need to win awards (and toot their own horns about it). The mention that Crispin always comes up with the great ideas, looking for inspiration in the CA annual, which works perfectly, as that issue arrives in December. Guerilla marketing. KISS – Keep it simple stupid (I enjoyed the surprising substitution of “shithead” though for that final S in the acronym). “Concepting.” There’s a word you don’t hear enough of in the advertising world.

Well enough with the overanalysis. I’m going to KISS and get ready for and go to bed — a plan that has worked for thousands of nights of my life already, and yet never loses its freshness.

*I will post my opinions on this word in a future post. Stay tuned.

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Filed under advertising, agencies, graphic design, Peanuts

Magic Eye Syndrome

So I was reading a friend’s blog yesterday, and she had a nice, funny post about Photoshop Disasters, a pretty self-explanatory blog on — you guessed it — Photoshop disasters. Art directors, graphic designers, and Photoshop enthusiasts alike swear by this site. I’ll be the first to admit it though, sometimes I see the errors, and other times, I can stare at an image for ten minutes and not be able to identify what’s wrong with it.

All this time I’ve chalked up my visual ineptitude to being unobservant, blind, or some other unquantifiable variety of incompetent. But I’ve finally realized my dilemma. It’s because I have Magic Eye Syndrome.

Magic Eye Syndrome of course, is no real ailment. And if it is, I feel like it only affects me.

Ever since 3rd grade or whenever those Magic Eye books hit bookstores, I’ve always felt like a loser. Everyone raved about those optical illusions, and how when they stared at them they could always see the unmistakable shape of ______ just leaping out of the page.

I never could see these things! Every time I’ve started to see one, I got so excited that I lost it somewhere on the way. Why must this always happen to me?!! (See the answer to the one above at the end of the post.)

I can’t tell you how many times over the years that I’ve faked that I’ve solved a Magic Eye. No one wants to admit to being the only person in an elementary school class that they can’t see it! I’m still a little embarrassed about it. I was just like Rachel on Friends when she had an ultrasound and pretended she could see her baby on the screen. Ross pointed it out to her and she said she saw it, cried, and then admitted to not seeing it. He re-pointed it out, and the process repeated over and over. Wow, that hit too close to home. Oh my God, I’m going to be that same awful mother someday!

Anyway, to this day I’ll never understand why so many people raved about Magic Eye over the years. Do that many people really see the “subliminal” images? Or is the world full of fakers like me afraid to own up to their inability to solve them? And why on earth did these things cause such a fuss in the 90s?

I will now return back to looking at Photoshop Disasters, where I’ll likely not see what everyone is laughing at. But hey, then again maybe it’ll be in the 30% of the time I get it and laugh with everyone else — not lying! I much prefer my odds in Photoshop Disasters (a 30% chance is way much more encouraging than 0% after all).


Filed under 90s, Friends, graphic design, rant

Beauty, art, and… politics?

Politics can be a beautiful thing.

Though much of the time it is anything but beautiful. Politics often showcases frustrating partisan debate, rampant blame thrust on opposing candidates, and everyone’s favorite, accusatory TV commercials.

But this year it is different.

Yes, John McCain has vigorously critiqued Barack Obama and has said that his opponent would do little other than raise taxes if he were President. And Obama has made McCain’s 90% voting with W during the latter’s presidency no secret. So what’s different about this time?

The art.

Artists from all over the country recognize the importance of this election and have used Obama’s candidacy as a springboard for their artistic expression. Their work has induced what could possibly be the most artistic election ever.

Here are just a few of the many Obama-inspired works:

This leads me to wonder, why can’t more candidates find a way to speak to such gifted artists? The world could be so much more picturesque.

More information and examples, especially on the color palettes and design, can be found here.

All artwork is from COLOURlovers, the “Color + Design Community for Creative Inspiration” at

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Filed under art, Barack Obama, election, graphic design, politics

I saw the sign

I gotta admit, Austin has among the coolest signs and logos for its shops, eateries, and events. It’s amazing how powerful something as simple as a sign or logo can communicate about an entity. Everywhere I go interesting fonts, color combinations, and other unique design choices tantalize my eyes. Here are a few of my Austin favorites…


P. Terry’s. This is my favorite sign in Austin. The red and white on robin’s egg blue (green) are a memorable color combination. I love the space age-y feel to it also.

EZ’s. The glitz and faux glamour of this diner’s sign introduces me to a place that knows better than to take itself too seriously.

Alamo Drafthouse Cinema. An Austin favorite, with a classic, vintage cinema sign.

Spider House. This place never misses an opportunity to showcase its lovely quirkiness. This sign is no different. It’s even laden with Christmas lights, just like the coffee shop’s patio.

Sandy’s. This sign choice communicates good old fashioned burger joint to me, which is exactly what the place is.

Allen’s Boots. I don’t care how corny people think it is, I like when people make letters into artwork, or other art into letters (as long as it works). The boot L’s work here.

Austin Java. Clearly these guys take their coffee seriously. But otherwise the sign communicates a fun, earthy, laid-back vibe.

Shady Grove. I just love the use of rope to spell “Shady” here. Always have (since the first time I saw this place).

(Did you also notice I’m a fan of neon lights? Especially ones that are also aesthetically pleasing by day.)

UT street sign. I love when colleges make everyday things their own, like this University of Texas street sign. Not only does the burnt orange hue greet the eye, but uses a starkly different font than all other street signs in the city.

Asti. This Italian dinner destination brings modernity to the forefront. Literally.

El Chilito. Just because the fare is overrated doesn’t mean you won’t be duped by the bright colors and intriguing packaging.

Vivo. I’ve never eaten here, but the sign hypnotizes me every time I drive by it.

Third Rail Creative. This downtown ad agency makes you forget for a few seconds that you’re not only not in New York, but worlds away.

Tesoros. Not sure if I like the font for “Tesoros” or the heart in the logo better. I definitely recognize the Lithos Black in “Trading Company” though!


Whataburger. When I read the word, I hear the voice of the commercials in my head, “Whatta-BURger.” The logo has a stark resemblance to the Weezer logo of old, but I really like the repetition of the W’s in the logo. It makes it memorable. As does the bright orange coloring and “packaging” of its franchises, with their white-and-orange striped roofs.

Torchy’s Tacos. Did you really think I’d complete this post without a Torchy’s reference? This logo insinuates that Torchy’s is both completely badass and has a little bit of a playful side to it. Bingo.

Austin City Limits logo. The font calls to an earlier disco era. I really like the double outlines and smooth curves of the letters.

Taco Shack. Every location of this taco chain has this wooden plank lettering. It’s unlike anything I’ve seen and really emphasizes the “shack” part of its name.

SXSW 2007 logo. Not sure what font SXSW is on this, but I sure do love it. I really like the simplicity of using thin lines to define what are otherwise bulky and lifeless letters.

Note: 90% of these graphics were found on Flickr (

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Filed under Austin, fonts, food, graphic design, logos, typography