NCCC, part 3: Refining the logo

nccc6After sending off my digital “sketches,” shown in yesterday’s post, Rusty decided he liked the girl better and asked to spin the “old man” profile and have it on the outside of the mountain on the left side to be more true to depictions of that image. He also asked me to try to move one of the legs to be up against the wall, and to overall slim down the outline of the girl. I knew I couldn’t just “move the leg” (I know my figure drawing limitations!), so I found a photo of a man with one hand and one leg on the cliff to come up with a few more versions:

 Girl loses a few pounds, deforestation occurs, ski trail or river added, and “old man” profile flipped to the left. Top left has cliff going all the way up, while top right has the original cliff shape.
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Bottom left: Girl gets a haircut, but still looks very female. Bottom right: I found a male image to work from for the one-hand one-foot on/off pose.

Rusty decided to stick with the cliff shape. I made a few final tweaks to each version to enlarge the figure slightly and move the figure and cliff to the left to take up more of the white space. Then it was time for a battle of the sexes… and finalizing fonts and colors. More tomorrow!

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NCCC, part 2: sketching and more sketching

NCCC original logo

Armed with a detailed design brief and the logo created by the previous designer, I spent some time on quick sketches, trying some options with a climber and other more abstract shapes reminiscent of the climbing wall “prow,” pictured below:

Wall shape

I sent Rusty the first batch of sketches: (the first batch did not include the pencil sketches at the bottom of the page – those were some second-round attempts)

NCCC sketches 1

Instead of scanning, cropping, and emailing, I simply snapped a picture on my phone and texted it to Rusty. He responded: “I had been imagining something sort of like the upper left. I like how clean the [the NCCC with the abstract shape] is, but without a climber it’s not clear it’s a climbing gym.” He mentioned that he liked how you could see both sides of the climbing wall in that sketch.

I tried more sketches after looking at various images of people climbing. I decided that I liked having the orientation flipped from the original logo – having the cliff on the right and the person on the left seemed to flow better for me, particularly if there was going to be text on the right side of the logo.

NCCC sketches 2

Rusty said that he liked “both hands on, both feet off.” Time to search for more stock photos and refine my figure. I knew that having a realistic figure was going to make or break this logo. Figure drawing is not really my forte, so I knew I’d have to look up some similar poses of real people to draw from.

Ideas

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At this point, I felt comfortable enough to start some digital versions. I spent some time tracing and refining in Illustrator, then blocked out mountain and tree shapes. I also explored some different fonts.

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Top: Trend Slab. Middle: Modified Century Gothic for “NCCC” and Futura Light. Bottom: Geometric Slab Serif.

But would Rusty like any of these directions? More in the next post…

NCCC, part 1: awesome design brief

My former coworker Rusty Talbot left the web industry recently to pursue a dream – opening a climbing gym in the beautiful hills of New Hampshire. He came to me after his artist was unable to complete the branding project to see if I could take it over. Rusty sent me one of the best, detailed briefs I’ve ever received from a client:

The logo files from the former designer: (The one on the left was the latest iteration)
NCCC original logo

  • What I want to evoke:
    • This is an indoor climbing gym but I wanted to connect with some visual imagery that reflects the location – northern New Hampshire. This is why we included the distant mountains and trees and so forth in the lower right corner
    • I want to make clear that this is about rock climbing – so that’s why we have the silhouette of the climber on a steep rock face
    • If possible, it would be cool to evoke an image related to the gym itself. I don’t think that the logo we were working with actually did this, but I’m attaching a photo showing a small part of the gym as it is being built. I think it is a cool looking feature like the prow of a ship. If you can think of a cool way to incorporate something that evokes this look into the logo, that could be really excellent
      Wall shape
  • What I think of the current elements in the logo:
    • I really like what’s in the lower right corner:
      • The snowy mountains and the trees.
      • If you look closely you’ll even see a version of the NH state symbol – the “old man of the mountain” that was part of a local cliff until it collapsed in 2003 (it’s still the state symbol even though it doesn’t exist in nature anymore, however!).
      • The other side of the mountain that has the old man on it has a ski area, so we represented that with the little ski slope curving down the mountain on the right.
    • I think that the climber and the overhanging wall is ok – and it is nicely evocative of rock climbing in a gym
      • Please note that I’m not that attached to the climber or his/her body position. It’s not as crisp as I think I’d like it to ideally look.
      • Also, I’m not super attached to the way the cliff face looks. It sort of looks like a blob. As noted above, I’d be more psyched to evoke an element of my gym like the prow in the attached picture
    • We toyed with different shapes and sort of honed in on a circular design.
      • If it wasn’t an attached circle, it looked like a monster eating a climber
      • If it was an oval it looked a lot like an eye (especially if the cliff face was a bit steeper and more like a horizontal roof)
      • The shape of the cliff in the larger file was sort of blah so we were moving toward a cleaner circle-style. She hadn’t gotten around to cleaning up the cliff to make it flow smoothly into the circle, however.
    • We toyed with including the wording or lettering in the logo and it didn’t feel like it worked
      • We tried both w letters in the cliff like in the larger file as well as with the words going around it in a circle (“North Country” on top, “Climbing Center” on the bottom)
      • I think that I’ll just want to have the words “North Country Climbing Center” next to the logo or below it or not all depending on the context.
    • Colors
      • I’d like to include color in my brand – but I don’t know how to incorporate colors in the logo (if at all)
      • The walls are going to be a mix of deep blue, brick red, and off white (it’ll actually be light granite). We need to be careful to keep this from looking like an American flag, however!
  • Uses – what I plan to use the logo for:
    •  Signage
      • An interior sign above the main entrance / desk
      • Maybe painted on one of the walls if it makes sense…
      • One big sign out in front of the building (this is the only expensive, hard to change thing that I’ll use the logo for)
    • Website
    • Facebook page
    • Business cards
    • “coming soon” promotional posters
    • Brochures
    • Tee shirts
    • Hats

Note that I’m using the catch-phrase of “live free and climb” (a play on the NH motto of “live free or die”).

Thank you so much for being willing to assist with this. While I do like the direction [former designer] was going in, I’m totally open to your awesome creative ideas.

Rusty was detailed and organized in sharing his thoughts about the existing logo design and what he wanted.

  • Bulleted lists are always helpful to break things down!
  • Rusty gave me some bigger picture branding requirements, explaining his desire to integrate “New Hampshire” and “rock climbing” into the logo.
  • He was extremely detailed with what he liked and didn’t like about the logo, and explained their design process so that I wouldn’t have to reinvent the wheel by trying things that didn’t work the first time around
  • He included all the potential uses that he would need for the logo, which helped to give me an idea of the level of detail (or simplification) that might be needed
  • And of course, he implied that my ideas would be “awesome” and “creative.” Flattery never hurts!

Next: I start sketching.

New family life comics

Here are some recent comics… (Click to view larger)

Matthew (3 1/2 yrs old) really dislikes snuggling with Steve if Steve doesn’t have a shirt on.

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One of my biggest challenges right now is keeping my patience when helping Steven (just turned 6) to practice piano.

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Benjamin (1 yr 9 mo) is starting to say lots of words.

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Benjamin is also discovering his “no,” which can be mildly confusing.

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Steve and Matthew have developed their own vocabulary.

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Our boys love watching “Chopped.” This actually happened.

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Benjamin loves to whack people.  He’s gotten strong enough that it actually hurts, and we have given permission for the older boys to hit him back (but not in the face). He hasn’t quite figured out the new rules.

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My treadmill desk

I’ve been wanting a treadmill desk since 2005, when I first read about James Levine putting one together.

(Reference one of my comics from 2005’s Christmas newsletter:)

Treadmill comic

Steve and I are not quite as penurious as we used to be in 2005, and it was reading this blog post by Ann Marie Michaels where she credited much of her increased activity to her treadmill desk that I decided to bite the bullet. I also pinned a number of DIY treadmill desks to a new Pinterest board.

That very weekend, I went on Craigslist, and lo and behold, there was a $180 treadmill for sale literally around the corner from our home. And we even had our friends’ truck in the driveway after a car-trade-for-a-day sort of thing. Perfect! In a matter of hours, we were owners of a Pro-Form 725 FP. It seemed massive.

Treadmill

We had a random piece of white melamine shelving in the garage. I had Steve hold it against the treadmill. Pushed up against the top edge of the angled handlebars, it was a good height for a keyboard. I took some scrap 2×4 and drew a rough angle for a cut. With two screws on each side, I now had my Treadmill Desk Beta.

Treadmill desk beta

The screws weren’t countersunk so they stuck up a little bit, but they were far enough out that it didn’t bother me.

Top of treadmill desk beta

To attach the supports, I used Velcro dots and strips that we already had on hand.

Underside of treadmill desk beta

Treadmill handlebars

Here’s how it looked in our bedroom:

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But where I really wanted it was in the office! Naturally, I picked a time when Steve was not at home to help me. I managed to scrape the floor nicely as I shoved the treadmill down the hallway. Then I wrestled the treadmill across the short span of carpet. And then I was stuck.

Stuck!

After removing the office door and making use of the doorways and closet opening, I was able to finally swivel and pivot the treadmill into the office. (At one point, it was standing up on one corner, wedged against the walls, and I had to crawl under and around it to get to better angles!)

Yay!

Then I moved it into the place where my filing cabinet, with printer on top, used to be. The file cabinet was now in the middle of the room (you can see it in the picture below). The printer got moved to our new upright file cabinet in the other corner of the room. Luckily, it’s a wireless printer, so location wasn’t important.

Treadmill in place

I took it on a test run, moving my work-issued laptop and setting the keyboard into the built-in book holder. I configured my Bluetooth mouse and keyboard and successfully walked and worked for the first time! I did this for a couple of days — using my Mac at my desk for most of my work, and moving to the treadmill when I had to do stuff on the PC.

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Things got serious when my Amazon order arrived. I purchased two articulating wall mounts ($22.99 each) and a second monitor (20-inch, $99.99). My other monitor is 22 inches, and I approximated that I would have about that much room to work with if I put them up side-by-side.

The wall mounts arrived – a box inside a box inside a larger box. Really, Amazon?

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I had to install a new surge protector onto the bottom of my declutered desk’s pegboard so that cords would properly reach.

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Then, I put up the first wall mount and mounted the new monitor.

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Connected to my work laptop:

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And it swings to the side…

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… leaving room for the second wall mount. I needed Steve’s help to strong-arm the bolts all the way into the wall for this one!

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Second monitor mounted and connected! Although I was rather annoyed that the insert-and-click post of the monitor stand is not designed to be removed, short of taking a hacksaw to it. Thank you, Samsung.

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For now, I put my Mac on the top shelf of my Ikea Jerker desk (another Craigslist find from a while ago) so that the monitor cord would reach.

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That was all well and good, but I’m guessing it’s not great for a laptop to be continuously jostled by the movement of someone walking on a treadmill. So, using some half-inch plywood that we already had on hand, and using some shelf brackets we already had as well, I made a shelf.

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The shelf has a little slot cut out in the back so that cords can go through… and you can see the Very Basic Shelf Brackets that I’m using.

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I covered the shelf with a few coats of polyurethane, leaving it the natural color of the plywood (with a slight “ambering” effect).

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The shelf was also positioned with about a half-inch of clearance to the very top point of the treadmill, to provide as much room as possible for my Mac laptop screen to open underneath.

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Because this is what I wanted: Mac laptop open on the shelf with external monitor above, and PC external monitor above.

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After working on this setup for a week or so, I was ready to make the final version of a treadmill desk. I was envisioning something with natural-looking wood, matching the shelf, but with friendly curves instead of hard corners. I had some quarter-inch plywood in the garage, just enough, in fact, for my new desk, so I cut it to shape with a jigsaw and countersunk the screws.

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I made the bottom supports longer – and spent a lot of time with Steve patiently holding the board with a level on top of it so that I could get the angle just right.

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I filled up the screw holes with wood filler and put on a coat of polyurethane but then realized the wood filler didn’t pick up the “ambering” effect AT ALL. They stood out visually like sore thumbs. (No picture.) So I ended up sanding the whole thing off and using Minwax Ebony stain (had it on hand in the garage from the treasure chest we made a long time ago). I applied the stain twice, letting it soak in for 15 minutes the first time and 2 hours the second time (I forgot about it!). Then I applied two coats of polyurethane to the top and one to the bottom (getting impatient!).

And here it is!

Treadmill desk

The dark brown actually blends nicely with our dark wood floors.

Here’s a picture of the supporting pieces underneath. I wasn’t initially going to stain underneath until I realized that you could see the side supports, and now I’m glad I did the whole thing.

Treadmill desk underside

Because of the longer supports, I added on a few more Velcro dots.

Treadmill desk attached

Contrast with what I had before:

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The desk feels much more secure now – before if I leaned on the front part of it, it would start to tip off.

Everything is the same as before – Two mounted monitors, Mac open, PC closed, and box of Kleenex at the ready. I put my water glass and coffee on the top shelf of the desk so it’s easy to reach.

Treadmill desk setup

I use a Mac wireless keyboard. I miss my extended keyboard that I used at my desk (but it’s wired), so I may eventually get a full wireless keyboard. Oh why doesn’t Apple make a full wireless keyboard…? I love the feel of the wireless one – it’s so narrow and polished. Then, I use my Logitech Bluetooth mouse. I got this a while ago, although I have a functioning Wacom Intuos 2 Tablet/Stylus/Mouse, because when I started using Synergy to share my keyboard and mouse between my Mac and PC, the Wacom didn’t work with Synergy. Now that I’m doing all my work on the treadmill desk, and facing the reality that I haven’t used my Wacom hardly at all except for some minor drawing in Illustrator and to sign my name on PDFs, I’m cutting the ties and getting rid of it.

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(The Field Notes notebook and fancy Pen Type-A have nothing to do with my treadmill desk system but are there for show.)

So yes – with one wireless keyboard and one wireless mouse, I’m able to use my PC and Mac simultaneously. AND walk on the treadmill! (There are times when the work I do requires me to connect to another network on the PC, and the high security measures on the government site kicks off Synergy. In that case, I pull my PC laptop down to the treadmill desk and use the built-in keyboard and trackpad to work. But it’s still nice having the external monitor so I don’t get a kink in my neck!)

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One side note is that I moved my Mac Dock from the bottom to the left side. Because I had my external monitor arranged above my laptop, the dock ended up on the smaller screen at the very bottom. SUPER annoying. So now I’m getting used to having the dock on the left side of the big monitor.

Here’s a picture of the new surge protector installed on the side of my desk closest to the treadmill:

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And unfortunately my work area isn’t as decluttered as it used to be, with wires visibly showing:

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But that is a small price to pay for being able to walk while I work! (And speaking of prices – this was a relatively low-cost venture after the cost of the treadmill and new monitor, mainly because I had scrap wood and power tools already!)

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And just how is the walking-while-I-work thing going, you ask?

Well – let’s look at my Fitbit data:

Fitbit Data

I find it VERY hard to make it the full 10,000 steps on the days I don’t work!

My speed is usually set to 1.8 mph (I started at 1.5 mph and worked my way up). It’s a moderate pace. I’m well able to type and use my mouse while I walk, but the treadmill is noisy enough that I have to turn it off for meetings. So on the days that I have a lot of phone calls, I walk a little less. I can usually get 5-7 miles a day.

With small kids in the house, I find that I get enough breaks from walking and have a hard-stop with work hours as it is so I haven’t missed sitting down too much. But I could definitely see having to figure out a sitting solution if I worked longer hours. I can’t imagine a bar stool on a treadmill, even stationery, would be a good idea!

That’s that for my treadmill desk!

Now I just have to clean up the rest of the office. Especially my desk.

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NaNoDrawMo 2013: Mostly comics

This is my third year successfully completing NaNoDrawMo! (See 2009 and 2011. Apparently odd years are my good ones.)

This year, I went with drawing mostly comics. It got challenging near the end to come up with new material, although most of the stuff I drew involved real-life situations that had happened within the past 24 hours. I’ve decided to post all of them below, so this is going to be long after you make the jump…

Read More »

Climbing baby is sad.

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Working it out

One parenting principle that we try to follow – and frequently fail at – is to allow children to work out their own problems and not interfere, since 95% of fighting is really to get parents’ attention.

But sometimes it’s hard to not step in.

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Why I am tired. Part 2 of 2.

Comic

Why I am tired today. Part 1.

Comic

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