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.

As we Americans are mere days away from Thanksgiving, some may say that it’s rather late in the game to start strategizing for holiday-oriented marketing. As a small business owner myself, I know all too well the stresses of wearing multiple hats and having things like the holidays “suddenly” sneak up on you. Not to fear, here is a holiday marketing cheat sheet with some interesting, budget-friendly and easy ways to promote your business while spreading your special brand (yeah, I said it) of holiday cheer in the coming weeks!

As always, if you need a helping designer hand with any of your marketing or promotions, please don’t be shy about visiting us at The Farm. We are here for you, both online and offline!

This week, we’re nearing the end of our Make Your Mark voting period and we couldn’t be more excited. Being that we’re on pins and needles to see which one of the great and worthy organizations we’ll be working with, we literally had to do something with all this anticipation. As creative collaborators, we decided to dig a little deeper into the city that brought us together. In addition to featuring some of our favorite collaborations to date, we asked each other 10 questions – about the things we know and love about Los Angeles. Enjoy!


1. Favorite corner of Silver Lake? You can answer that literally or figuratively.
Southbound on Silver Lake Blvd after nightfall during the summer – rounding the corner at the top of the reservoir and looking across at the houses lit up on the hill, the glow of LA behind the ridge. When I first moved to the neighborhood I’d roll the windows down to feel the cool breeze and pretend it was Lake Cuomo, all twinkling across the water.

2. The one spot in all of LA that is sure to lift your spirits?
The bar at El Compadre with a flaming margarita.

3. Favorite watering hole?
That’s too hard! I’m treating this as multiple choice, and more or less city-wide…
Bourbon and Ginger Beer – made with aplomb by Calvin at the Edendale
Black Manhattan – Thirsty Crow
Flaming Margarita – see above
Fruit-Infused Margarita (always with chips and burnt habañero salsa – I’m obsessed with that salsa!) – Malo
Lena’s Holiday – Allston Yacht Club
Whenever, wherever.
For old Hollywood ambiance (eastside) – The Prince in K-Town (but I don’t recommend the food)
For old Hollywood ambiance (westside) – the Polo Lounge at the Beverly Hills Hotel

4. Koreatown or Little Tokyo?
K-town for bbq, Wilshire Spa, the HMS Bounty and the Prince.
Little Tokyo for udon, boba and Woori Market (formerly Mitsuwa) where I buy candy for piñatas. Everyone loves Japanese candy in a My Little Pony piñata.

5. Best way to spend a free afternoon in the city?
Exploring. I think of LA like archeology – the deeper you dig, the more treasure you find.

6. An insider’s tip you’d give to a newbie to the city?
For a gal: Go to Wilshire Spa in K-Town for a steam, sauna and soak. It’s the best $20 you’ll ever spend in this city. And if you feel like splurging, get the scrub. You’ll be amazed at how baby soft your skin will be.
For a guy: Resist the urge to buy a pork pie hat and wear pants that belong on a 12-year-old girl.

7. What is something you would do ONLY in LA?
Drive. Everywhere. And hate it.

8. In my opinion, LA has the best…
…mashup of culture, music, food and a distinct openness to creativity.

9. If there was a taco throw-down, which two joints would you like to see go at it?
I need three: Guisado’s in Boyle Heights, El 7 Mares on Sunset Blvd. and Picca on Pico.

10. When you imagine LA, what 3 colors come to mind?
Purple for the jacarandas
Orange for the sunsets
Grey for the asphalt


1. What are the first 5 things that come to mind when you think of LA?
Randy’s Donuts, family, the Silver Lake Reservoir, Korean food and of course palm trees

2. Favorite place to get a bourbon?
Thirsty Crow

3. Best Korean BBQ joint?
Chosun Galbi, especially if someone else is paying!

4. Best place to take someone who’s just visiting?
Hollywood Bowl

5. You’ve only got $20 in your pocket – where do you go / what do you do?
Take the Metro to Chinatown for some dimsum and then go to Chung King Road to check out some great art galleries

6. What do you like most about living and playing in Silver Lake?
The quaint village feel combined with an eclectic mix of people, places and things

7. How often do you go to the beach?
Uh … there’s a beach?

8. What about LA inspires you creatively?
It’s a snapshot of all that’s happening creatively and socially around the world.

9. If you could change one thing about the city?
I would make the beach closer so that I remember there’s a beach here.

10. What’s your biggest dream?
I’m still dreaming it up. Tell you in a little while!

The Think Farm is dancing along into 2012 with Pantone’s Tangerine Tango. Known as a mix of adrenaline rush and friendly warmth, it continues to provide the energy we all need for the new year. We take it as a good omen that Pantone’s color of the new year is so serendipitously close to The Think Farm’s official color!

Since arriving in London last week, I’ve been busy sitting around at my friend’s place watching TV and snacking (try salt and vinegar potato chips with red wine — it’ll blow your socks off) so I missed this:

I HAVE ventured out of the house. For meals, tea and cake. En route, I came across these:

At the Four Seasons ... Is this stall for the elderly? The handicapped? People with canes?

Four Seasons again, where the wallpaper is more chic than I am

Oh, dear.

Temporary installation at the entrance of the V&A where they have the most delicious meringue with Devonshire cream ...

This can happen to you if you have way too many hangers and time on your hands

A close-up view

When Helen asked me to create a “guest” post for The Think Farm blog I was honored and quickly agreed. I like to agree quickly before anyone really thinks about it and changes their mind … So before Helen gets back from London and realized what she did …

I decided to post the video excerpt from a series I participated in called “Voice, Image, Action: From Business to Brand”. It relates to the (brand) Image part of the presentation. It’s short, about 5 minutes, but will hopefully give some ideas on how to discover the personality of a brand. The most important part is at the end where I (very) briefly mention the “management” of your visual identity. It’s So important and so often the least-followed-through part of the process. Business will spend a huge amount of money and energy getting the visual identity just right (and they should) but then “leave it to chance” for the implementation. I beg anyone who hasn’t done so to create a brand standards manual. It will make your life so much easier.


David Etzen is founder and principal of design studio redbar, directing ink and pixels to communicate ideas. David has over fifteen years of experience in graphic design with a specialty in brand management and design for print production. He has partnered with a broad range of clients that encompass a variety of professions. David has managed projects for clients such as the Walt Disney Company, Universal Studios and PBS (Public Broadcasting System) as well as from-the-ground-up brand management for product and retail clients such as silver lake wine, graze organic, Lark Cake Shop and Ibiza Hair. He served on the board of directors of the Silver Lake Chamber of Commerce for ten years where he was creative director and brand manager. His photography has been seen in LA Design Magazine, C Magazine and numerous publications for the Silver Lake Chamber of Commerce.

There always seems to be a mountain of things on the to-do list around The Farm. The busyness of everyday pushes said mountain under paperwork, into inconspicuous corners and far into the recesses of my mind. I find, though, that events and guests are great motivators for chipping away at the to-do’s. The idea is that people can experience The Farm at least one step closer to what I envision it ultimately becoming. Recently, Laura and Logan of the Chicago-based production company 20K Films came to visit and I decided that “paint bathroom door” would get checked off the list. I went with something a little unexpected:

The Think Farm's take on public bathroom graffiti

Remember, for a good time design call 323 522 6505.

There’s nothing like new sights and sounds to inspire and reenergize your creativity. A few images I came across during a recent road trip through the Californian coast:

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