Monday, July 18, 2016

Case Study: TWIST Logo Redesign

It's fun to look back at projects to see how they have evolved over time.

We don't often have the opportunity to cultivate a visual identity over the course of a few years: normally we work with commissioners for a few months to sort out their needs and then hand over the branding we've created for them. As the graphic designers for the TWIST fibre festival, however, we've been able to guide its evolution over the past 3 years.

This is what the TWIST logo looked like when we were brought aboard to audit their brand:

The intention behind the design was to create something that looked handcrafted and fun, as well as contemporary.
Their original designer had chosen a free font that only used repeating characters, and that repetition drew away from the handcrafted, authentic aesthetic that was being aimed for. Additionally, the typeface had a faux cross-hatched effect on it and there were some issues with the logoform's letter spacing.

One major problam with this version of the logo was that it was difficult to implement in different situations, and the tagline would disappear entirely if we tried to shrink it down to a usable size. We fixed that.
A strong brand guideline hadn't been established previously, so we cultivated one for them. We chose typefaces and colours, and defined their visual language.

This was last year's look:

We really wanted to emphasize the essence of handmade craft, so we drew a "Clarendon-esque" typeface by hand, imported it into Adobe Illustrator, and adjusted the letters by eye until the spacing was more optically balanced.
By creating a one-of-a-kind, truly hand-drawn typeface, one elevates brand equity because that typeface isn't one that can be downloaded on any font website.
TWIST has a different theme every year, and the visual identity can be refreshed accordingly in order to reflect each year's energy and aesthetic. This year has a particularly exciting energy because it's the festival's 5th anniversary, so our goal was to embody that by creating something vibrant and colourful; something that reflected the fact that this is a celebration of fibres and the myriad ways that people transform them.

As such, we went for a very hands-on approach: since I have been engaged in all manner of needlecraft since childhood, I went through my yarn stash and embroidered the logo by hand.

The letters were embroidered in a variety of different stitch styles so we could pick and choose among them to create the most dynamic effect. We went for bold, saturated hues this year both to evoke the aforementioned celebratory theme, and to promote the idea that this is a festival for all ages and genders to enjoy.

Our hope was that attendees and aficionados could be inspired by what we've done and make TWIST their own: whether they're knitters, weavers, lace-makers, or embroiderers, we've invited them to be more active participants in the festival by creating their own ...twist... on the TWIST logo. 

...and Ava was a big help too.

Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Regency Era-Inspired Family Tree Project

I have to admit that working in graphic design is a hell of a lot of fun, mainly because we have the chance to work on incredibly varied projects. Last year, we were approached to create a family tree for a friend of ours, and I'd be lying if I said that we didn't "squee" in delight at the chance to sink our teeth into such a fabulous endeavour.

The tree was commissioned by MK Martin—a writer and naturalist based in rural Ontario—to be a Christmas gift for her parents, and the final piece was created as a canvas print, which was later framed by the family.

Here are MK's own words, describing what inspired her to commission the project:
"My grandmother was the family genealogist, growing up, and had a massive set of filing cabinets full of our history, dating back to the 1600's. Later, the internet set that even further back. Recently, gram was diagnosed with Dementia, then Alzheimer's. Her descent took less than 5 years. Something about the loss of her passion inspired first my mother, and then myself to keep up. Mum's also an avid biography reader, and I'd spend many hours reading the family trees in royal lineages. We were assigned family crest projects in elementary school, and my Irish imagery really spoke to me Also, I wanted to win Christmas."
...and oh, did she win.

We'd never worked on a family tree before, so this was a wonderful new challenge to tackle. Our goal was to create an elegant piece that could be treated like a family heirloom.

Fortunately, MK's mum had been hard at work doing genealogy research on, so we had access to several generations' worth of names with which to work.

The challenges were to determine how many generations back we could go without making a tree that would dominate an entire wall, and how to arrange the very large family lines vertically, rather than horizontally.

Since MK's mum is a big Jane Austen fan, we aimed for a Regency-like aesthetic (...with many artistic liberties taken...) that incorporated iconography from both sides of her family's lineage.

The ornaments used around the border were taken from a collection created by Pierre Simon Fournier; an 18th Century typefounder and typographic theoretician. We used them to make repeating borders that were both utilitarian and decorative.

It's always a pleasure when work we create for someone to give as a gift is truly appreciated by its recipient, and knowing that MK's family loved this piece as much as we loved designing it reminds us of why we went into this field to begin with.

Wednesday, March 30, 2016

... and got the T-Shirt!

Spring has sprung, and T-shirt weather is just around the corner. We have the privilege of designing a lot of fun items for our clients, but some of our favourite recent work has been for Paradise City's T-shirt collection.

Not all of these styles are currently available (some will come out for next season's autumn/winter collection), but they're all a hell of a lot of fun. It's great to be able to wear pieces that we've helped to create, especially when they're this awesome. ;)

Friday, March 4, 2016

TWIST - of Textiles and Type

As graphic designers, most of our days are spent sitting at our desks, working in various Adobe programs. Although that's a hell of a lot of fun, it's nice to be able to step away from that creative medium once in a while and use more traditional techniques instead. Sure, we'll use hand-drawn or painted assets in our work fairly often, but for the visual identity for this year's TWIST Fibre Festival, we went in a new direction and hand-embroidered the logo to really evoke the sense of handmade craft and fibre arts.

(When I say "we", I mean that I hand-embroidered letters, which were then used to spell out "TWIST". We have some shared skill sets, but needlework doesn't really fall under Nathaniel's purview.)

I used several different stitch techniquesfrom cross-stitch and petitpoint to couching and crewel, embroidered on both canvas and burlap with a variety of different fibresso we had a wide range of hues and textures to choose from. Ultimately, we chose a mixture of embroidery thread for the letterforms, and assorted handspun artisanal yarns for the colourful accents.

It's funny... we can create faux versions of just about any texture imaginable with Photoshop and Illustrator, but there's nothing quite like creating the real thing by hand.
We're huge fans of authenticity, and since we're designing these pieces to promote a fibre festival (which draws knitters, spinners, and other fibre fiends from around the world), it was a lot of fun to work with needle and thread instead of just a mouse and a drawing tablet.

I've been doing needlework since I was a child, but had never had the opportunity to put it to use in a practical design application before, so this was a fabulous new experience in Winter-Hébert land. It was also nice to spend several chilly evenings curled up by the fire and stitching merrily whilst binge-watching British murder mysteries on Netflix and Acorn.

Here's hoping that we'll see you at the TWIST festival in Saint-André-Avellin this August!

Friday, February 26, 2016

Yoga Studio Cards

It's always a pleasure to work with local clients (like the Boulangerie we helped to re-brand), and we had the opportunity to create some business cards for another wonderful voisine recently.

Cynthia McCart is a a yoga instructor and massage therapist who lives and works in Saint-Andre Avellin. When it comes to design, she leans towards soft, pastel colours and images that evoke the serenity that she aims for with her clientele.


We placed a mandala with a pink/peach/coral gradient on a pure white background, and used gold type to complement the warm hues. Although the hue looks flat in the rendered images, the printing house was instructed to use gold foil, and the result is just gorgeous. Adding a little bit of shimmer to the cards gave them a bit more personality than if they'd be printed in flat tones.

The cards printed up beautifully, and we'll be keeping consistent with this colour scheme for her promotional flyers, postcards, etc.

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

New Year, New Look

Since 2016 marks Winter-Hébert's 5th anniversary, the time is right for us to update our visual identity. After much brainstorming and sketching and fussing and such, we decided to go with simple forms and basic hues, inspired by the birds that helped to spark our studio's very existence.

Many people are unaware of the fact that our studio came into being thanks to a couple of house sparrows. Back in 2011, we were both working with various studios in the Toronto area when we found a tiny, newly hatched baby bird squirming on the hot sidewalk outside a store. Being the animal lovers that we are, we promptly scooped him up and took him home, hoping that we could somehow keep this little weirdo alive. His need for around-the-clock feedings prompted us to start working remotely with commissioners from around the world, and that leap was reaffirmed by our finding a female hatchling not long afterwards. 

We named them Robin and Puck*, and they turned out to be a couple of house sparrows (Passer domesticus). Robin had been tossed from his nest because of physical deformities, while Puck was the only survivor of a nest destruction by a nasty neighbour. Since neither of them would have survived out in the wild, they've become our constant companions and travelled with us from Toronto to our current place in rural Quebec.
These two little birds weren’t just the catalysts for us establishing our own design studiothey reflect the duality of how we approach our work as a whole. Just like our sparrows live (and play) together, with their unique personalities contrasting and complementing one another’s, so do we tread the magical middle zone between rationally driven design and intuitive solutions. 

For the revamp, we chose a simple white and blue palette, with an elegant sans serif typeface and simplified lines. The white represents Winter (as well as my Scandinavian ancestry), and the classic French blue pays homage to Nathaniel's French-Canadian lineage (the Héberts have been living in Quebec for over 400 years).

We think that this new look encompasses our fondness for sleek, modernist design, as well as our passion for authenticity and handmade craft. Our work is heavily influenced by Dutch and Swiss work, but we will hand-draw unique typefaces if the occasion calls for it, and we’ve incorporated elements such as watercolour painting, embroidery, and even wood burning into projects. 

We think that our new look says a great deal about who we are, and we hope you like it as much as we do.

Puck and Robin in all their adorable glory.

*Sparrows' plumage becomes identifiably male or female after their first moult, so we chose gender neutral names for our feathered kids so they'd fit well regardless of whether they turned out to be male or female.
Also, just for the record, their names were chosen from Shakespeare's Midsummer Night's Dream, not hockey. 

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Petite-Nation Sans Frontières - Welcoming Syrian Refugees

"Welcoming you into our homes with open hearts" was the concept behind the visual identity we created in collaboration with Hot Dog Design for the Petite-Nation Sans Frontières (Petite-Nation Without Borders) group. They're an organization dedicated to welcoming Syrian refugees and ensuring that they get the support they need while acclimatizing to life in the Outaouais region here in Quebec.

Bright hues were paired with warm, friendly typefaces, and the universal heart shape that's understood and recognized across all cultures.

Our region has welcomed two Syrian families so far, and hopefully we'll have the chance to open our homes and hearts to more folks in need over the coming year.