SOCIAL ADDICTIONS

Nothing gets our inspiration flowing like a good, juicy blog post. Read about what we’ve been working on (our latest launches), what we can’t stop thinking about (design trends, industry happenings and new partnerships) and what we think you should know (expert branding insights and probably some stuff about dogs).

Check back often—we’re quite chatty when we want to be.

Mar 7

When talking minimalism, simpler does not mean easier. In fact, it is extremely challenging to create great interactive web design with all the functionality users need and few extra elements, which is what minimalism strives toward. The great Antoine De Saint-Exuprery put it perfectly when he said “Perfection is achieved, not when there is nothing more to add, but when there is nothing left to take away,” and the team at Oblique’s web design firm couldn’t agree more. We want to guide you through the primary elements of minimalism and what to remember when it comes to color, typography and whitespace. To get you in the right mindset, here is an example of how Apple masters minimalism.

 

Make Color Meaningful Again

When deciding on colors to use for your design, first decide what color means in this medium. Is it to draw attention to something? Is it meant to create a particular mood? Will the target audience relate to this color well? These will help you use the chosen colors consistently in the right location without overuse or confusion.

Color can also help create hierarchy without using additional visual hints. Try using a bold but simplified color scheme that will both accentuate the design’s intention and also blend well in the background. Be careful not to include too much color or create something too bold, it will take away from the design’s intent and can mask the content. It should be about finding a balance. Instead of using only black and white, think about  adding just the amount of color that the design requires.

Choose your Words Wisely

Minimalist philosophy centers on the idea that you must design around the content: content is king, and visual layout salutes the king. Minimalism is about using only what is essential to the design, so the words in the design are just as important as the typeface that they’re in. If the design is bold and simple, the copywriting should be as well. It should be clear what the user is supposed to do, where to do it and how to do it.

From there, readability and legibility are the most important. By all means, go forth and be bold, but do so with meaning and intent. For example, avoid using too many typefaces because the design can become cluttered. Instead, create consistency throughout the design with typography that relates each piece back to the same core.

Less, but Better

If you didn’t know already, whitespace is absolutely key to minimalist design. Through abundant space, the design can organize elements in a comprehensive order. It can also allow the design to guide the viewer toward the most important content. Just as with color and typography, there must always be intent and meaning behind every bit of empty space.

A grid system is the best tool to create spatial relationships and find the right balance between too much space and just enough space. It gives the eye a path to follow through the  content while also being visually pleasing. This should not be confused with adding “mystery” to the design, there should always be clarity, accessibility and functionality through every placement. Whitespace is an art on it’s own and takes practice to master. For more info and tips, check out The Next Web’s free ebook.

To Wrap Up

Don’t forget that the goal of minimalism is to only use elements that contribute to readability and usability. Using meaningful color, bold typography and consistent whitespace are all important pillars of the minimal technique and using these incorrectly can lead to over-designing and ultimately a dysfunctional design. Minimalism is not an easy task, but when mastered, it can lead to thoughtful, beautiful and rooted design, which is something every designer should strive for.

Feb 14

Packaging design might just be one of our most favorite areas of expertise here at Oblique. We wanted to share a few of our (not so secret) secrets on how we approach and execute package design. Everyone knows when it comes to packaging design, it must be eye catching and appealing. Food products need to make consumers salivate, beauty products should be desirable and healthcare products need to look trustworthy and safe. But there are other details that should to be taken into consideration when creating a new package, no matter what what category it falls under. Here at Oblique, we look past the obvious and into the details.

Here are just a few more details we think about when it comes to packaging design:

Packaging Tips:

It’s not just a barcode, it’s a blank canvas:

It’s not entirely a new concept, but it may be for some. Morphing barcodes into illustrations is becoming the trendy new fad when it comes to packaging. In the past, adding that dreadful, bulky barcode to a beautifully designed package was deflating to a designer. Now the barcode can be part of the overall design, rather than sticking out like a sore thumb. Businesses may be skeptical as whether or not to take this artistic leap. “What if the barcode won’t scan due to the artwork surrounding it?” In reality, you only need a very small area to actually scan the barcode. That leaves a lot of room for artistic interpretation on our end.

Here are a few of our favorite barcode designs out there:

Use sustainable products (think of the future):

Each year, over 33.6 million tons of plastic are discarded into waste landfill sites across the United States. Using recycled materials for packaging, therefore is needed for both our environment and to start seeing savings across manufacturing industries. Recycling materials actually helps to stimulate more economic growth in the long run for your business, and for those across the country. Using recycled products also tends to cost less in packaging, so there is very little reason not to start using recycled materials now. We are happy to announce that our “Love the Wild” packaging is completely made from recycled materials. Not only is the box recyclable, but the sauce trays within the packaging are also recyclable. View our “Love the Wild” packaging project here.

Don’t limit yourself to 1 design:

At Oblique, we always over deliver. Just ask any of our clients. Packaging needs to really stand out against competitors, because it’s always going to be surrounded by other great or terrible packaging.Below are just two examples of how diligent we are about showing multiple design directions for our clients:

Barology:  ranging from photography to vector illustrations
Power Plant:  ranging from organic farm stand designs to modern pop

Jan 20

With the fresh start of a new year (Happy 2017, everyone!), also comes reflection and resolutions. Team Oblique couldn’t be happier with the projects we completed, the clients we worked with and the growth we have gained as a company.

Last year, Oblique made the big decision to give our portfolio a complete makeover. Our updated and improved portfolio contains new projects and an original look. We went even further and created a micro-site (obliqueslant.com) to give potential clients a quick (and might we add, beautifully designed) overview of what Oblique offers. It’s different from what you’ll see on your average Colorado design blog and that’s what we’re after.

For Oblique’s new portfolio, we demonstrate how our Boulder interactive agency creates a fully rounded brand, not just a logo or website. For example, we show that a logo like the one created for Handcraft Kitchen is not only built to be executed on a web page, but how those elements are conveyed through menu design and exterior signage. This is the full-circle design that Oblique thrives on.

2016 offered opportunity for Oblique to build several brands from scratch. One of our favorites, “BOOM Properties”, was especially unique because this client wanted to push all boundaries when it came to creative solutions. From naming their company, designing their logo, tagline and stationery, all the way to a fully functional responsive website, BOOM is just one of the many satisfying accomplishments we encountered last year. Check it out in our (new!) portfolio here.

Alongside BOOM, some other companies we created identities for were CUE, CONGRUEX and Clove Hill. These all started without a name or identity and are now developed, mature brands ready to take on the world. Other 2016 highlights included designing a new product catalog and beautiful Comuni-tee apparel for “Women’s Bean Project”, as well as working with Gro.io and Coadria to build two beautiful and unique tech-based websites. We also created packaging for Clove Hill’s skin-care lines, Love the Wild, Biozen Skincare and Power Plant. We even helped League Collegiate Outfitters celebrate their 25-year anniversary by giving their website a new and timeless look. Be sure to check out all of this and even more on our portfolio page!

From the bottom of our hearts, we want to thank every single person, client and company that we interacted with in 2016. We cannot wait to see what 2017 has in store in the future!

Dec 21

league_blog

This year, Oblique was reconnected with League Collegiate Outfitters to update the design of their website to match the look and feel of their new 25th anniversary catalog. Since we designed their original website a few years ago, we were excited to create a new look to with them and are happy to announce that the site is officially live!

League is known for their smart vintage-inspired collegiate apparel designs, iconic logos, and all-around American aesthetic. You can find their clothing at most colleges and universities across the country. League has lead the way for ethical practices and global consciousness in the workplace and have always been a valued client of Oblique. Check out the site and let us know what you think!

Dec 2

blog-post-image

Think your site might need a facelift? Before you call your web design firm, first ask yourself what your current site is lacking, what is working and what isn’t. Some say that you must update your website every three to five years. This can be both a good thing and a bad thing, depending on your users and your company. A redesign could attract new customers and increase conversions, but it can also put off current customers that are comfortable and familiar with your site. Let’s be honest, most users hate change.

For a redesign to be effective, you must first have an understanding of what does and doesn’t work on the current website, and how the user’s needs have changed since the last redesign.

“When people visit your site, they see it as a reflection of your organization. If your site looks professional and is loaded with useful information readers will see you as an authority…if the site looks poorly designed and structured and/or out-of-date they’ll make the same assumptions about your company. The website should highlight your product and/or service and the layout should look harmonious and consistent.” – Granite5

THINGS TO KEEP IN MIND:

Never forget Mobile:
To simply think to yourself, “No one will ever visit my website on a mobile device” is far from the truth. Mobile Internet usage is on the rise and it’s not going to stop anytime soon. Most developers plead designers to think of mobile design before designing for desktops, basically working backwards. “According to SimilarWeb’s State of Mobile Web US 2015 report, roughly 56 percent of consumer traffic to the leading US websites is now from mobile devices. Mobile traffic in Q4 was roughly 49 percent, on average, for these top sites.”

Be Responsive:
Just as mobile website design is necessary, don’t forget the tablet users. Your website should look (and work) flawless across all devices. What device will come out next that we will have to take into consideration in the next 5 years? Let’s worry about that when it happens.

Know your Audience:
Are you selling to consumers, other businesses or is your website purely informational? What is your target demographic age, gender, or location? You must take everything into consideration, as it can drastically alter the functionality and look of your entire website. If you are catering to an older demographic, you wouldn’t use small body copy or have fancy bells and whistles that could confuse them, thus losing interest in your website completely.

Online Marketing:
What is the point of having a killer site if no one ever finds it? Understanding how search engine optimization works can be frustrating. If you’re not familiar with SEM and SEO, we recommend starting here:

Google Webmaster Guidelines
How Google Search Works

SEO = Earning traffic through unpaid channels like Google.
SEM = Buying traffic using digital advertising.

It’s important to keep in mind that a complete overhaul of your website can be quite costly. Do your due diligence when searching for the right web design firm. Ask questions, ask for references and review their portfolio. Having a great relationship and communicating clearly with your interactive design agency is very important. It’s vital that they understand your needs—and the needs of your users–in order to achieve the exact redesign you are expecting. Below are the steps for a full web redesign:

1 – Research Audience
2 – Copywriting
3 – UX / Wireframes
4 – UI / Design
5 – Mobile Design
6 – SEO
7 – Programming
8 – Q/A testing
9 – Launch

The website redesign process won’t happen overnight. A completed website can take months, depending on the size of the site, but don’t get discouraged! A website redesign that begins with a thorough examination of changes and a clear understanding of how your site should represent your company can lead to strong improvements in how the website contributes to your bottom line. An informed, professional approach to a website redesign is one that’s likely to end successfully.

Nov 17

inspiration_blog

After collaborating with BOOM Properties, a local commercial brokerage and property management company, Oblique is excited to announce the launch of their brand new website!

BOOM Properties recently came to Oblique with a task of a complete re-brand for their Boulder-based company. Our team created their name, tagline and is now launching their new website. BOOM! With such a unique and dynamic identity, Oblique gave the BOOM website an energetic interface to match . From a horizontal scrolling to colorful and vibrant photography, BOOM has by far been one of our all-time favorite projects.

Check out the site here.

Nov 11

inspiration_blog_1

There has been a lot of talk inside the creative design team at Oblique about the idea of inspiration. Who and what inspires us? Why is inspiration important? Where do you find inspiration?

We realized that although everyone is different in their tastes and origin of inspiration, we all agree that it is very important as a creative to feel inspired by what others are doing around us. At Oblique, we want to be both inspiring and inspired by those around us.

Who inspires us?

Marissa Mayer, the CEO of Yahoo has once stated that when she needs to make the right decision, she likes to “surround myself with the smartest people who challenge you to think about things in new ways, and do something you are not ready to do so you can learn the most.”

Marissa’s idea speaks directly to us here at Oblique. The main source of our inspiration and mentors that we look up to are those who are challenging the status quo and not afraid to do so (or even if they are afraid, they are still brave enough to do it anyway). Those who have the passion and motivation to create the world they want to be a part of are the people and projects we at Oblique most gravitate towards.

The experience levels may be different here at Oblique, but it has been interesting to see over the last few years how much all of us inspire each other. One of the perks of being in a small agency is that we have the flexibility with our design thinking, and we have the ability to be creatively agile with our clients. We can experiment with inspiration more than a larger agency might because they tend to have more boundaries and guidelines to follow.

We asked Oblique’s Kelsey (Designer) and Natalie (Senior Designer) to name a few other people they are inspired by:

Natalie: “I was more drawn to past artists that I consider to be designers – I was obsessed with Russian constructivism and their poster art as well as Bauhaus when I was first getting into design. But recently I’ve been really inspired by designers like Mike Perry, Jacob Eisinger or the designers of LAND, who are all absolutely brilliant.”

Kelsey: “There are so many people that have inspired me over the years. But to name a few, Tina Roth Eisenburg (aka swiss-miss) has always been someone I look up to and was someone who inspired me to push outside of my comfort zone when I was first getting started. I’m also a HUGE Aaron Draplin, Jessica Hische, and Gemma Obrien fan. All brilliant designers and people that have always motivated me to work as hard as I possibly can and to always push the status quo of design.”

What inspires our creative design agency as a whole?

 While inspiration is extremely subjective,. we found that very commonly we are inspired by certain projects, websites, packaging, etc. not only because they are beautifully designed, but more importantly because they are creating a new solution that has never been done before. We are drawn to People in the design world who are creating a movement with their innovative thinking. Even though we might not have the freedom to be as experimental as we would like with certain clients, revolutionary creative solutions pushes us to think outside of the trends and norms and to always try something different.

Where and when do we find inspiration?

 If you ask any creative where they find inspiration, you won’t find a clear answer. Inspiration is absolutely everywhere and cannot be defined. We decided here at Oblique that it doesn’t matter where or when you find inspiration, but it’s important to always be looking for it and to be open to it. The more places we can pull inspiration from, whether that be different cultures, different industries, or even different mediums, the more rounded and unique designers we can become and the better solutions we can create.

How to be inspired and how to inspire others:  

Oblique tends to be inspired by being as open minded as possible. It seems so obvious, but with so much access to so much information, we sometimes find ourselves digging through the same design themes or same inspiration boards.

In order to combat this, we suggest being very conscious about accepting opportunities to be inspired by others. We found that the easiest way to do this is to get involved, wherever you are. Get to know the world that surrounds you. Go to lectures in your community, visit art galleries, talk to companies and people who are making a difference. Surround yourself with those smarter than you and become what we call a “learn-it-all.” Learn everything you can about what motivates and pushes you (and others) to be better designers, and then communicate and share those ideas and experiences. The things you share with those around you is what in turn, inspires others.

Oct 19

nat_blog_image-02

Parallax scrolling is a technique in computer graphics and web design, where background images move by the camera slower than foreground images, creating an illusion of depth in a 2D scene and adding to the immersion. Interactive design companies began incorporating parallax scrolling around 2011, using HTML5 and CSS3. While some people may be on the endless scrolling bandwagon, others are bored and ready to get off.

With everything, there is a right way and a wrong way of approaching things. If your website has over 6 pages and tons of useful information to get across to the user, parallax scrolling is not the best solution. There are many pros and cons that can be argued, though the list of cons can be quite lengthy.

First of all, everyone knows that it’s terrible for SEO, it’s a nightmare on mobile and not suitable for text heavy or ecommerce sites. Yet, captivating imagery and beautiful, tasteful typography merged together seamlessly can create the most memorable and mesmerizing site. Advocates argue it is a simple way to embrace the fluidity of the Web. Proponents use parallax backgrounds as a tool to better engage users and improve the overall experience that a website provides. However, a Purdue University study published in 2013, revealed the following findings:

“Although parallax scrolling enhanced certain aspects of the user experience, it did not necessarily improve the overall user experience.”

Here are some reasons to use a parallax scrolling site:

– Introduce a Product or Cause

– Highlight Your Portfolio or Mission

– Tell a Story

So is the parallax site a burnt out trend or are we just starting to see the beginning of something evolving into what might turn into something entirely unique? At Oblique the interactive design team agreed that we are just on the cusp of the parallax evolution. There is a time to incorporate parallax scrolling and a time to avoid it all together. If your company is seeking to visually tell a story or present a marketing campaign, parallax scrolling can be your best friend and best solution. Some of the most memorable sites we have come across happen to consist of mainly parallax scrolling sites. Here are a few amazing sites that do it right:

http://porschevolution. com/

http://special.bose.eu/fr/

Aug 26

Brand_Naming_blog

In many ways, naming your brand is just like naming a person. A name is what introduces someone to the world – it’s the title that will be with them through every endeavor they take on in life.

At the same time, naming a brand is even harder than naming a person. A person can become whoever they want to be, while a company has a defined goal from the start and its name is the foundation of its entire brand identity. Choosing a brand name can be much more challenging.

Let’s stop here to revisit the first (and only) rule when it comes to naming your brand: it has to be legal. In layman’s terms, you can’t infringe on anyone else’s brand name, and it’s a good idea to make sure no one can infringe on yours. Speaking to an intellectual property lawyer is the most foolproof way to protect yourself from any legal trouble down the road, but there are other, less costly ways to ensure your name is unique in the marketplace. Here at Oblique Design, we start by scouring the web for any red flags when we search for the name itself, and then we search it with any and all key industry words. Even when we are confident we have a unique brand name, we run it by our fellow WBENC member and trusted intellectual property lawyer, Lisa Dunner and her team at Dunner Law, just to be sure.

There are a few distinct categories of brand names. We’ll name just a few to give examples. When you sit down with your branding company these name archetypes will hopefully help you define the kind of name you want for your company, you can also ignore them all and start from scratch! Naming is an art, not a science, after all.

The Legacy Name

Behind every brand is a story. Even if that story seems vanilla, no brand just “happens.” Where and why your brand started are the very foundation of who you are, so why not start the naming process there? Charles Schwab (yes, he’s a person), Larabar, Nordstrom, Seattle’s Best Coffee, L.L. Bean and Boston Market all capture their legacy in their name, and it’s a badge that won’t wear with time. Meaningful? Check. Unlikely to offend? Check. Easily unique in the marketplace (read: easy to protect)? Check. On the downside, they can be less captivating, so it takes more branding and advertising to make the name come alive.

The Obvious Name

If telling the market what you do is your priority, then an obvious name is a no fuss solution. If you are a smoothie shop, then naming your store “The Smoothie Shop” guarantees no one will ever be confused about what you do.  However, there are two very strong reasons that there aren’t many brands out there with this type of name. First, it’s extremely hard to protect or defend in a lawsuit. After all, you can’t protect the word “smoothie.” Second, if you ever want to venture into other areas of business, your name can easily become confusing. If “The Smoothie Shop” wants to start serving salads, it will be difficult to attract the salad market.

The Clever Name

The Clever name is your answer to the downsides of the obvious name. When you still want people to know exactly what you do, a play on your goods or services can make for an effective name. By taking an obvious name and putting a spin on it, you make your name more unique (again, read: protectable). Many brands do this; Bed Bath and Beyond, Burger King and Steak-n-Shake are great examples. The truth is, any brand strives for a name that says what they do. The hard part is making it unique and ownable.

The Out-Of-Left-Field Name

To find this name, you may find yourself speaking in gibberish or exploring exotic species of birds. We all are scrambling to find this name; the name that will have people saying, “how on earth did they think of that?” Welcome to Google, Yahoo, Nike, Adidas and Twitter. They are words you’ve never heard of, perhaps never existed before and have seemingly nothing to do with their respective brands. These names are unique, extremely protectable, and can be easier for your branding firm to work with, as you’re starting with a word that seems to have no meaning.. The truth, however, is that there is usually some meaning behind these names, and they didn’t come out of thin air. Apple, for example, seems to have no relevant meaning to the computers they sell. But, it is said that Steve Jobs came up with the name after visiting a macintosh apple farm in Washington, and felt the name was “trustworthy and non-intimidating.” The out-of-left field name is the gold standard of brand naming, but it has to be done in a way that won’t leave your audience offended, excluded or confused.

The Timeless Name

The good news is that you don’t have to worry about choosing a name that’s timeless – at least for right now. Timeless names take years to come to fruition and they live on, sometimes longer than their brands do. Timeless names develop as the brand builds recognition, familiarity, trust and reputation. They are the names of a brand that’s grown into itself, and the only effort that takes is to bring the brand to life and give it staying power (cake, right?) Coca-Cola, Pepsi, Ford, AT&T, Warner Brothers, and many other brands started in the archetypes above, and after years of life, crossed into the branding-elite, “Timeless” name category.

Let’s not try to hide it: while deciding on your brand name, you may feel like a parent flipping through baby name books or find yourself learning a new language because seemingly every English word is taken. But, to avoid pulling ALL of your hair out (you still might lose some), it’s important to sit down and truly discover who your brand is first. You should know your brand as if it is your oldest friend, and only then can you hone in on what kind of name it should embody. When a name is right, it will feel like that was its name all along.

If you’re struggling with any aspect of a branding (or rebranding) effort, get in touch. Our Colorado branding agency team has helped companies of all sizes define and create branding and collateral; they’re ready to help.

Jul 15

CommuniTEE_Post_WB

If you haven’t noticed already, we love the Colorado community that surrounds us here at Oblique. Oblique takes pride in working with local companies, partnering with similar minded groups, and most importantly, working our absolute hardest to make a difference wherever we can.

The Women’s Bean Project, a nonprofit based in Denver, employs chronically unemployed and impoverished women and provides them with stepping stones to self-sufficiency through social enterprise. Through transitional employment, The Women’s Bean Project helps them earn the job readiness, interpersonal and life skills to create a new future. (Amazing, right?)

We have worked closely with Women’s Bean Project over the years, and so we were more than excited when they asked us to design t-shirts and hoodies for them through our ComuniTee program. We worked closely with their core values and branding to create two killer designs that evoked empowerment, transition and the power of women.

Check them out or buy them on their site, and look for them on our Oblique site soon!

SHOP NOW! >>