Three Christmases ago, in 2011, my sister Jennifer and her husband Alen started a tradition of creating a custom, photo-based holiday greeting card with the help of yours truly. Their son Jinu was barely seven months old at the time. The “prop” took less than 30 minutes to make and the “photo shoot” took all of 15.

2011 Kim-Zehnaly family holiday card

If I do say so myself, it helps to have a graphic designer (moi) in the family. It sure does cut down on costs, and you can get as much retouching as you want! Honestly speaking, neither Jennifer nor Alen need much retouching so the retouching — and there has been a lot since 2011 — hasn’t been much about vanity. It might sound like I’m biased but I love these two so much, I would retouch their mugs till the cows come home to make them look like a million bucks if they needed it. The real beneficiary of my skills has been Jinu. As he’s grown bigger and squirmier and developed a mind of his own, my Photoshopping muscles have been increasingly challenged to make sure he appears in the final shot in a greeting card-worthy way. Last Christmas, we had a bigger concept for the card, which I blogged about then. Making it happen with a 19-month-old toddler wasn’t easy.

Some rough shots from the 2012 holiday card photo shoot

Some shots from the 2012 holiday card photo shoot

It look lots of coaxing and patience and definitely some Photoshopping to land on this final image that wished loved ones a happy holiday AND announced the upcoming addition to the Kim-Zehnaly clan. Jennifer’s BFF and former Think Farm design assistant Ritzel Quito added the graphic elements to drive the message home. It wasn’t perfect since there were a lot of disparate parts that had to be pulled together and we didn’t have a professional photo set-up. I’d say it was still pretty darn good for a family holiday card!

Kim-Zehnaly-family-Xmas-2012

We weren’t exactly trying to up the ante this year but Jennifer, Alen and I were all keen to try something creative for the 2013 card. We were definitely influenced by the beautiful work of artist and mom Sioin Queenie Liao but I never forgot Oren Lavie’s music video for “Her Morning Elegance” ever since I first saw it five years ago. I loved the whimsy and seeming simplicity in the use of props to tell a story:


 
Ok, now to have three novices take on the challenge of interpreting this concept into a family holiday card, with not just one but two little ones! I decided to be a smarter about lighting this year and pulled out old halogen lamps and whatever other clean source of light I could find around. Thankfully, Jinu didn’t knock any of them over. That was the last favor he did for me. It would’ve been ideal to shoot everyone at one go but with the baby puking on her dress, the toddler running around like a terror and three grown-ups simultaneously bossing each other around, that was never going to happen. Instead, I shot one element at a time, grunting and sweating from the top of a 5-step ladder.

First, the parents. SO easy!

No retouching -- doesn't my sister's skin look awesome? Jealous!

No retouching — doesn’t my sister’s skin look awesome? Jealous!

Then, the newest addition to the family: five-month-old Adeline. We got her at just the right moment and she was charming!

Shoes on or off, she looked gorgeous!

Shoes on or off, she looked gorgeous!

Finally, Jinu of the Terrible Twos. There were tears, there was sweat, there was yelling. Of the four adults (my brother David eventually came in to lend a hand) and Jinu, it wasn’t always clear who was doing which.

Those little dots are chocolate chips we used to try to calm him down. Uh, they didn't work.

Those little dots are chocolate chips we used to try to calm him down. Uh, they didn’t work.

This year’s holiday card took a marathon Photoshopping session since we got rolling with the project at the end of the first week of December but it got done! My Photoshop skills aren’t good enough to turn Jinu’s frown upside-down but I think it’s the best Kim-Zehanly Christmas photo card yet, and Auntie Helen has earned her keep … Until next year.

Kim-Zehnaly-family-Xmas-2013

Merry Christmas, everyone!

asnm-logo-color

2012 provided one of the best branding experiences I’ve had to date in the form of a contest, some very worthy non-profits and a partnership that continues to yield delicious fruit.

Helen Kim of The Think Farm and I hatched a plan to offer our services through a social media contest, Make Your Mark, to a Los Angeles-based non-profit as a way to give back to the city that gives us so much. We were nothing short of thrilled by the passionate and socially conscious applicants who worked hard to promote their organizations to become our winner.

Sadly, there could be only one.

Happily, we were honored to work with some of the incredibly innovative and forward-thinking folks in the Los Angeles Time Banking community on a new kind of community market concept.

Once known as the Altadena Urban Farmers’ Market, theirs was an experiment in hyper-localism: a neighborhood market where folks came to buy, sell and trade local products and produce for both federal currency and time dollars. As the market grew in popularity, it began bursting at the seams, requiring a new strategy for growth and implementation, as well as a new identity.

Market manager Justin Bilow entered the AUFM into the Make Your Mark contest and handily won by leveraging the market’s various social media communities. I began working with them in April 2012 to dig deeply into their vision, mission, core values and emerging identity. Those foundational elements were then applied to the branding process to identify their target audience, market position, key messaging and new name.

With some deep exploration, care and nurturing, the Arroyo Seco Neighborhood Marketplace sprouted from the very fertile minds of some of Los Angeles’ most pioneering folks. The new market is set to re-launch this spring, and they’ll be using the brand platform that M+C helped them create and the visual branding pieces The Think Farm designed to present their new identity, vision and voice to the community they serve.

Helen and I are excited to see this new identity and brilliant concept take root. What started as an experiment in hyper-localism has grown into something much bigger, but that still remains true to its community-minded roots and values:

“Providing the space for community experimentation, play and paradigm shift by incubating small businesses and hyper-local exchange through the sharing economy.”

We wish them the best of luck in their new endeavor knowing they have the internal navigation system to reach their goals and the stellar visual branding they need to make their mark.

Added bonus: Originally conceived as a brand package giveaway one-off, Make Your Mark has continued to evolve – as all good things do – into a process that M+C and The Think Farm continue with new clients. Stay tuned for our work with another one of the MYM contestants, Viver Brasil!

*The title of this blog post is also one of the key messages developed for the Arroyo Seco Neighborhood Marketplace, but it aptly sums up how we also feel about our Make Your Mark experiment. Big thanks to ASNM for letting us borrow it for this piece!


sarahSarah McGowan is the owner and creative principal at MAC+COB Business Therapy. Sarah makes a mean strawberry-balsamic jam.

Happy Hump Day, everyone! This is sort of random but I just really, really like this. It reminds me of my childhood Saturdays glued in front of the TV watching Kung Fu Cinema after Saturday morning cartoons. Those of you who grew up in LA in the 80s know what I’m talkin’ ’bout! Hope you enjoy.

Back in spring of 2012 when we announced the then Altadena Urban Farmers Market as the MAKE YOUR MARK winner, we had no idea what the branding journey for such an innovative non-profit organization was going to be like. Juggling the needs of the Time Bank members with the inherent values of the existing farmers market and the vision for things to come in the future was no small task, and the core team of what is now known as the Arroyo Seco Neighborhood Marketplace did a mighty fine job navigating its way through the process. Of course, members of the team had the expert Sarah McGowan of MAC+COB to keep their eyes of the prize as she worked tirelessly with them to develope their brand strategy. By the time the branding brief landed on the desk of yours truly, it was crystal clear where the organization was headed. No longer is it just a farmers market (though, to be honest, it was never “just” a farmers market!). The new and improved Marketplace is just that — a place of innovative commerce, a place of gathering, a place to test, experiment, play and grow as a community.

Round 1: Initial Concepts

To communicate the idea of the Arroyo Seco Neighborhood Marketplace — which is the coming together of community in both physical place and concept — we initially looked to the past (read: simpler times) for inspiration: storefront awnings, signage and picnic/shopping baskets.

Round 1

The word ‘neighborhood’ is absent

Round 2: Alternate Variations

We liked how a traditional store sign implied a concrete, physical space but wanted to communicate the fact that the Marketplace is more than just a place. It is about innovation, about thinking outside the box.

Round 2

Round 3: Revisions

THEN we thought, why not play on the idea of the box and make it look like a CSA (community supported agriculture) produce box? Plus, we didn’t like how the generic box graphic conjured up ideas of packing up, moving and being either transitory or in transition. As you can see, the “thought bubble” idea continued to be a strong contending concept.

Round 3

Round 4: Color Exploration

We returned to the basket idea (revising the icon a bit to make it look more like a shopping basket) and decided upon the “thought bubble” design which looked uniquely recognizable as a branding element and more contemporary. The Marketplace has certain values that harken to the days of yore, but its passion is to innovate and move forward. As Justin Bilow of the core brand exploration said:

… the ASNM is meant to coordinate among the sundry and unique marketplaces under a common theme. This is [well] represented in [the] design … It’s symmetrical centered, and its borders point to four different directions, which can abstractly represent the different neighborhood-level marketplaces.

For the final step, we wanted to add some additional vitality to the logo with bold, meaningful color:

  • Green: renewal, harmony and connection to the earth
  • Orange: activity/vitality, socialization and appetite
  • Brown: wholesomeness, stability and connection to the earth

Round 4: color selection

We Have a Winner!

In the end, we chose brown as much for its significance as its visual impact.

Final logo and official color scheme

Final logo and official color scheme

We are super stoked at what we came up with and can’t wait to move on to producing collateral to promote the new and improved Arroyo Seco Neighborhood Marketplace!

Happy 2013, everyone! It’s only the second day of the new year but the pressure to get steamrolled by the urgent is already immense! The discipline to stand aside and reflect becomes all the more critical in these moments, I think. The Think Farm is a small operation in many ways but we’ve had the privilege to be a part of some big things last year. We hope for even bigger things to come in 2013 but here is a look back at some of the awesomeness that was 2012.

The Think Farm: 2012 in Review

The Think Farm worked on a little personal project this holiday season. Jennifer (Helen’s little sister) and Alen already have an adorable 1.5-year-old boy but are expecting another addition to the family! To share the good news, they decided to do a combination Christmas and announcement card this year. Alen came up with the concept, Helen did the styling and photo shoot (trying to get a rugrat to cooperate is a Herculean feat!) and assistant designer Ritzel — who also happens to be a very good family friend — did the design and layout. It was truly a team effort!

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Congratulations to the Kim-Zehnaly clan. Happy holidays, indeed!

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