We've had another one of those weeks. Or three. On the 13th, and in conjunction with Portland International Jazz Festival, McIsaac joined a panel (moderated by Tim DuRoche) to review the history of the Blue Note album cover artwork library, largely focused on the design work of Reid Miles. He was joined by author Ashley Kahn, whose forthcoming book, titled Somethin’ Else is poised to become the authoritative work on the history of the seminal jazz label. Blue Note music producer and archivist Michael Cuscuna provided relevant historical color, and jazz critic Josef Woodard rounded out the panel quartet.
On Tuesday, the 17th, AIGA Portland hosted a panel discussion that centered on surviving the current economic downturn. Moderating the panel was Julie Beeler, Principal of Second Story Interactive Studios. Panelists included Steve Sandstrom from Sandstrom Partners, Sean O’Brien from Wieden+Kennedy, Ryan Buchanan from eROI, Mary Kysar from Makelike, Steve Potestio of 52 Ltd., and branding and marketing specialist, Scott Niesen. See the full transcript of that event at Bespoke.
Following Friday meetings in San Francisco with Pinch client Smith & Fong, we carried over into the weekend for Phil Hamlett's and Gaby Brink's annual convergence of sustainability and design; Compostmodern 09. Skillfully stitched by host Joel Makower, this year had John Bielenberg of Project M, filmmaker Eames Demetrios, Core77's Allan Chochinov, Nathan Shedroff, Saul Griffith and others. The afterparties included gatherings with The Designers Accord and a book launch for our friend, Brian Dougherty of Celery Design Collaborative, in Berkeley. (It was good to finally meet Brian's business partner, Rod DeWeese, who is running Celery's Paris office.) Mr. Dougherty will be in Portland for our local AIGA chapter's version of the same Compostmodern show.
Due to delayed flights, we were just under the wire in returning home to Portland for Monday's inaugural class with Portland State University's continuing education program, Producing Digital Media. Pinch is working with the class to structure the syllabus around a Web redesign effort for one of our most treasured resources, Portland Center Stage. We're progressing the idea a bit further in that we're approaching it as a community effort for a collaborative community resource, with Pinch managing the affair and aligning Portland Center Stage and students with our favorite professional partners in Web design and development, online and audio branding, animation, social media, and SEO. We'll see how it plays out, but we (and others) are planning this as a new business structure with measurable benefit and broader goals. To track and share the progress, we will develop a site to share the story. And if you're in Portland, you'll likely being seeing more in the press about this project. It appears to have grown wings.
In other client work, we're in the closing stages of wrapping a new Joomla! site for (previously mentioned) Smith & Fong, and we kicked off our next phase work plan with Metro's Multifamily Recycling project. On extremely short notice, Pinch went strong at winning a rebrand RFP for Deschutes County Library with our pals from happy, inc. We just missed the cut. None of us were entirely surprised, given the language of their RFP, but we were a bit disappointed. As Yogi Berra uttered, "if you don't know where you're going, chances are you'll go somewhere else." Fair enough. That aside, we were pleased to learn that Pinch is one of two finalists for the Oregon Council for the Humanities rebrand, a project that we feel we're perfectly suited for. We have a new manuscript in the house for Hawthorne Books and Literary Arts and we're considering the possibilities of another book with photographer, Steve Scardina. Along with Kate Raphael, previously of Pyramid Communications, we begin a new communications plan and identity guidelines for Portland Parks Foundation and on-going projects with Forest Park Conservancy. New client work has begun with strategist Cate Millar and Oregon Wave Energy Trust, which marks a project of significant interest for our little firm.
Perhaps most satisfying, we launched the initial identity materials for the Oregon Trout rebrand, now referred to as The Freshwater Trust. With their game-changing StreamBank program, as well as aggressive education initiatives with The Healthy Waters Institute, and ongoing restoration with the merger between Oregon Water Trust and Oregon Trout (which now, as a program is focused primarily on stream restoration to benefit fish), the organization is firmly positioned to tackle the larger issues related to freshwater, our planet's most important single resource. We'll write this project up in further detail, and will add it to the Works section as the week progresses.
As you may have noticed, we partnered with our pals at Substance to host Show and Tell PDX, an opportunity for those working in design, technology, and the arts to share their efforts. We are pleased to be part of the advisory team charged with considering the making of a design museum in Portland. And we continue the community work with this month's Designspeaks featuring Andrea Marks and her film history of the social, cultural, and political dialogue of the Polish posters from WWII through the fall of Communism, titled Freedom on the Fence. Keep an eye out for the debut of The Slant Six this coming Friday at Bespoke, which marks six of the most interesting musical tracks that we're currently listening to in the studio. And if that weren't enough, we're closing in on wrapping our first round of The Straight Six; six questions that tap some of the most interesting people in design, typography, sustainability and brand development.
Along with our friends at Substance and the FlashPDX User Group, we invite you to join us for an evening of show and tell. We know that you have been working diligently on the next big thing, and we want to give you the opportunity to brag about it a bit. So, on Tuesday, March 3rd at 6:30 pm, at Substance, our little collective will be hosting an event where you can come and share what you’ve been whipping up.
The idea is simple; we’re looking for people to share a short presentation on something they have been working on and then, of course, to tell us about it. Plan for about 10 minutes on stage. We hope you'll share ideas, designs, code, art, film, and whatever you might be interested in showing (and telling). We’d love to see new speakers, and yes, we'll expect the usual suspects will want share their work, as well.
We plan on getting started around 6:00, with drinks and music. We'll begin the program at 7:00. The event will be held at Substance World Headquarters, 1551 SE Poplar Ave, Portland.
We’re looking forward to you joining us for an informative, enlightening, and entertaining evening.
We've had a good week at Pinch. As we mentioned at the beginning of the month, we were anxious to get to work and that work began by reaching out to friends, clients and prospects. Those efforts have begun to bear fruit, and we couldn't be more excited by the quality of the organizations who are, in turn, seeking our assistance.
Our brand development work with Oregon Trout and Smith & Fong in San Francisco is some of the more fulfilling work that we've tackled in some time. We expect to announce the launch of the newly redesigned Smith & Fong site in fairly short order. And the new brand language, name, and visual identity for Oregon Trout will be unveiled at the end of February.
We were pleased to learn yesterday that we had been awarded the Metro Multifamily Recycling contract, particularly given the stiff competition from around the region. A multitude of very good firms were in the hunt for that work. The week has also provided inroads to good people within organizations for which we maintain great respect; Vancouver's Formos (developer of StreamBank), Oregon Wave Energy Trust, and Oregon Council for the Humanities to name just three. We hope to assist in their varied project development efforts, as well.
The kind words continue to flow with regard to the Pinch site redesign, for which we're quite proud. Like painting a bridge, it's a continual work in progress. At this point we can say that the primer has been applied. And during the writing of this post, we just learned that Bespoke (our little rant space) has been added to Alltop, Guy Kawasaki and Nonomina's collection of top-shelf news feeds from around the world in design. It's good to be considered in the same company as Josh Rubin's Cool Hunting, Design Observer, and Zeldman's various properties.
We hope your week is progressing with the same level of promise. And if not—as we did for so many weeks—we would encourage you to take heart. It's only Wednesday.
Okay. We sent out an issue of Spam last spring pimping our "new" Web site. So here we are with another one. What gives?
We got better. The previous site – which we liked just fine, thank you – admittedly suffered in a couple of areas. First, the goddamn contrast was too low. We took a coupla shots from an accessibility advocate for this; and as much as we liked the look of it, we had to admit that there were no solid reasons for not making a change. Secondly, the old site fell short in the SEO department: though the page structure was just fine, the titles of individual pages and URL structure carried no useful information for search. I screwed up and designed the original project records to use altogether too many clicks to get anywhere; and finally, we got some traffic from a few of your better design aggregators and took static for having small pictures.
While any one of these things could have been handled without too much trouble, all of them taken together seemed to indicate a re-architecture. The new site uses more of your screen real estate (1024 × 760 vs. 800 × 600 for the old one). The pictures are big and if you click on them they'll get even bigger, thanks to Cabel Sasser's FancyZoom. Project records now load all pictures on the same page; you navigate by scroll rather than clickthrough. The site now passes every contrast test we were able to find. We've also added a sitewide search function and a properly formatted RSS feed for Bespoke, our Weblog. Page titles and URLs are now much more friendly, both to humans and to search entities.
The whole thing is run through EllisLabs' ExpressionEngine, a powerful, flexible content management system made right here in Portland, Oregon, which allowed us to do much of the back-end work ourselves, and will allow us to make incremental changes relatively easily. Which is great, because I'd rather not do this again too soon.
Let's talk bizdev. Because I don't have time to say "business development." I also don't have time to say "International House of Pancakes." Why? A couple of months back, we figured that the "hide your light under a bushel" method of business development we had been following — oh, basically forever — maybe didn't work so good, and we gave Hillerns some plaid pants and sent him out on the street.
Well, he brought back some sweet wins.
First, we just inked a deal to develop a new brand for the 75-year-old Tidewater Barge Lines (Hat tip to our pal Madeline Turnock on this one). Tidewater handles the bulk of the shipping along the Columbia and Snake River systems. They also own extensive terminal facilities and a good-sized shipyard. The branding effort is part of their 75th anniversary celebration and also points to a new facet in their business: moving biofuels from new facilities along the Eastern Gorge into Portland.
Second, we're developing a brand for a new manufacturing concern. It's a very interesting project and right in line with our interest in sustainability, and I'd love to tell you more about it, but we're NDA'd until the middle of August.
Next, the Friends of Forest Park are changing their name and mandate as part of an aggressive effort to form a powerful fundraising and stewarding body along the lines of the Central Park Conservancy. Yours truly are handling the brand effort.
It don't stop: Portland's Office of Sustainable Development awarded us a chunk of their general services earmark for this year. We don't yet know what we'll be doing for it, but we'll keep you posted.
It don't quit: Steve Novick over at Pyramid rolled us into a larger team to handle this year's campaign for Fork It Over!, Metro's food donation program. Thanks, pal. By the way, my man is running for U.S. Senate, and you should give him some money.
Wow. So much for bragging. Now we have to do the work.
Last Friday, we delivered a new capabilities brochure to Portland-based Fios, Inc., a pioneer and leader in the electronic discovery industry. Electronic discovery, for the uninitiated, is the process of gathering, cataloging and compiling legal evidence into a searchable electronic form for attorneys' use. Fios does the grunt work, but also shows its clients how to set up procedures to retain information in a logical and discovery-useful way.
We've been working with Fios for over a year now in kind of a "back-door" brand development exercise consisting of various collateral, Web and trade-show-related projects; those projects and the capabilities brochure are shown in greater detail here and here. If you're interested in what back-door brand development is, you'll have to wait a bit until we get the Fios case study posted. It ain't anything we invented, anyway.
The brochure was written by Timothy Leigh, photographed by Michael Jones, and printed in six match colors on FSC-certified paper (Mohawk Options) by the newly-FSC-certified Dynagraphics here in Portland.
Pinch is honored to have been selected to participate in the Portland chapter of AIGA's Urban Forest Project. The effort, modeled after a similar program run by the New York chapter of AIGA, involves the creation of banners by twenty area designers, each using the form of the tree or a metaphor for the tree to make a visual statement to accompany a series of events during the week of Earth Day. Following public display, the banners will be recycled into tote bags and sold at auction, with proceeds going to Friends of Trees, a local non-profit dedicated to urban reforestation.
Pinch's submission creates a typographical forest from the Latin names of the various species of tree used in urban forests, along with pithy facts about the role trees play in the urban ecosystem. The small type is not meant to be read when the banner is hung from the lamppost, but will come into its usefulness when the banner enters its second life as a bag.
Pinch has installed a proper, enterprise-strength server to help us slake our burning thirst for fast iron. Er, that is, meet our clients' expanding needs. The machine, an Apple Xserver Quad Xeon loaded with all sorts of technical crap you don't need to know about, was purchased from and configured by our pals at IrisInk. Craig Blanchette and Chris Williams helped us out.
Besides general file-serving and library duties, we'll be using it to maintain and serve a web-based corporate asset archive for one of our larger clients, a service that we hope to expand to other clients.
Man, it is freaking awesome. And by awesome, I mean it is totally sweet.
This spring, Pinch will move out of Portland's Pearl District (where we've been, in one space or another, for fifteen years) and into new space in southeast Portland. We're moving for a couple of reasons. First, we had a good opportunity to buy and we took it. We're not getting any younger, and we figure you shouldn't pay rent unless you absolutely have to.
The larger reason has to do with the direction our business has taken. We've been working with Columbia Forest Products for the past several years. During that time, they have transformed from an old-school manufacturer to one of the leading lights in the sustainable building movement. The experience has transformed us, too.
We bought Pinch House so that we could experience and understand firsthand the challenges and rewards of sustainable building. Here in Portland, green projects are popping up everywhere, usually with hefty price tags attached. We wanted to see what you could do with—not to put too fine a point on it—plenty of enthusiasm and not much money.
Additional benefits: both Pinch principals live in southeast, and in fact Hillerns lives in the house next door. The fence between the properties can be removed, giving our children a double lot to play in. McIsaac can walk or bike to work.
Downsides? Well, there isn't much in terms of restaurants at the edge of Woodstock as yet, and we'll have a harder time making it down to our beloved Bouchon on Fridays. We're trying to get them to move east.
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