Whether you need wordmarks or emblems, modern or classic, vibrant or monochrome, grungy or squeaky clean, renew or brand new, flat or from the 3rd dimension, I've got a full tank of midnight oil in the dream machine. I've worked with clients of all shapes and sizes, so don't hesitate to contact me with that special order.
Developed from a Scottish family's clan pin, this job required modernization without the loss of generational relevance. Head to BRAND ONE to read up on the case study that included a logo, business cards, brochure, and website.
This one was for a heavyweight club DJ who is part gorilla himself. Featuring a texture that's more distressed than a guy who can't get past the velvet rope on ladies night.
Meaning 'eye' and 'sun' in an aboriginal Taiwanese language, the graceful curves forming the eye of the wave convey the grace and power of the women in the water for this swimwear brand.
The iconic roof and colorful 'gateway' hints at the experience of immersing oneself in a rainbow of culture to learn Chinese via this educational institution program based in Kaohsiung, Taiwan.
Gold brushed fill harmonizes with the vinyl-inspired container to let patrons of this recording studio & live music venue know they can expect nothing but the finest hi-fidelity experience, whether they've come to lay down new tracks or just listen to some.
Like transplanting an old tree into fresh soil, this logo required that we keep the Canadian roots of the original intact during the process. After a successful surgery, they could finally toss their raster file and print their freshly vectorized kit in any size or format needed.
Much like the Fosters job, this client had an ailing logo that didn't quite radiate the rejuvenating energy that her health + lifestyle coaching was known for. A tri-color reconstruction in vibrant hues communicated her services with revitalized vigor.
This Steve Mcqueen aficionado needed a neo-retro logo that the king of cool would respect. Looks great as a tee, sticker, or patched onto a vintage leather jacket.
Logo for the organizers of the Sunflower Movement during the Spring of 2015. The 15 Taiwan 'petals' surrounding the fist represent the major districts of this fiercely independent country.
A logo tuned to the same frequency as the killer custom boomboxes this biz was producing.
True to form, this collective kept their logo requirements loose and left me to come up something that was as powerful as their funky reggae presence. The Zion Lion is strong with this one.
ABCS of CHINESE
This project required a logo that mirrored the interconnected structure of the Chinese language, but still kept it as playful as the gamefied learning system he had developed. Check out the accompanying app design in the MORE section.
This import-export business needed something that communicated the swift professionalism of their business as rapidly as the vessels which delivered their goods.
GREEN DREAMS GARDENING
The wordmark practically grew on it's own as soon as I heard the name.
UP LATE 2008
Despite the iterations over the years, the CMYK has remained strong with this one.
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Dip a toe in the demo pool of dynamic possibilities below to see some of the freshest effects this side of the matrix. Some demos are best experienced with a mouse, but every Up Late website can be tailored for a device-friendly responsive fit on any display. Consultations are always free!
If variety is the spice of life, my cabinet is chock full. These are case studies of what went into a few of the diverse brands I've worked on over the years. If you dig the process, drop me a line and let's define your flavor.
What began as a wee logo request bloomed into a branding package complete with business cards, brochure, and website. The client is a family-owned Scottish Golf tourism startup that seeks to cater to international businessmen, with a special focus on the burgeoning Asian market.
The client came to me with a picture of their family crest pin for Clan Davidson. They had tried to augment it in Photoshop into a usable logo, and the result didn't quite convey the 5-star VIP brand they were hoping to build. Fair play to them for trying, but I was well chuffed at the prospect of modernizing such a traditional symbol.
After a quick debriefing ('Wisely if Sincerely' = Latin lesson for the day), I moved onto collecting more reference material to illustrate with. It seems they weren't alone in having a hard time coming up with a quality render. There is no shortage of questionably drawn or photographed incarnations, but they provided enough direction to proceed.
I wanted this emblem to quickly communicate the power and poise of the stag centerpiece; something that would age gracefully yet retain it's strength - much like a fine Scotch whisky.
I tend to keep my sketch prototyping phase as loose and efficient as possible, sometimes electing to bypass the pad and pencil to go straight to the graphics tablet. After a couple of iterations, I was pretty close to what I thought would work. Time to pair the emblem with some text and clean it up for presentation.
I will typically provide a client between 3-5 options, individually presented and accompanied by annotated descriptions explaining the choices behind each pairing. Only the compiled versions are seen here, but you can get a sense for the subtle contrasts created by the different font selections and ornamental elements. With the logo stripped of the fine details on the physical crest in favor of bold, clean lines, a strong serif font was used in conjunction with victorian-era dividers to help reintroduce the filagree accents of the original, while remaining perfectly legible at any scale.
Like many of the projects I've been fortunate enough to work on, the client was quite happy with the results of the first round. Two variants were selected for final delivery.
Two colorways were defined for use on light or dark backgrounds, supplied with recommended Pantone specifications for print and digital purposes. The end result was an updated symbol that concisely conveys the majesty of the stag, honors the heritage of Clan Davidson, and exudes the luxurious refinement the brand aims to communicate.
Now that they had their new logo, the client was in need of some promotional materials. I was asked to continue on and create business cards and a brochure they could distribute at upcoming expos. Being that I've worked on a fair number of bilingual projects in the past, I was happy to oblige.
However, this meant working with one of my least favorite design elements: Chinese. Despite the 'expressive' limitations of printed Mandarin, it does have the benefit of being very space efficient.
Thankfully, we were able to keep the copy relatively light overall, which allowed for everything to fit into the traditionally space-maximized luxury motif. Both brochure and card are quietly distinguished on their own or as a complimentary set.
Since we'd already built up great synergy working together, the client then asked if I would take care of their website. We had already established some good framework for the overall aesthetic through the existing materials. The site creation included several custom elements including a promo video, booking form, and venue showcases that had to be equally elegant and practical.
Given their main audience focus, the completed English site then had to be fully translated and mirrored in Chinese. Normally, AI-powered plugins like Google Translate are adequate for this task, but Chinese to English (or vice versa) is notoriously difficult to do without error. Thus, the Chinese version of the site exists independently of the English, and all content was added through professionally-translated text that was pasted in, section-by-section.
All client websites are initially laid out via annotated lo-fidelity wireframe in specialized mockup software (I currently use Figma and Adobe Xd).
After the basic sitemap is roughed out and the client and I are both content with the content, a hi-fidelity mockup is provided with further notation.
The client was elated with the final blend of old-world symbolism and new-world modernity. The contrast of gold leaf on dark chocolate hues invokes an ambiance of elegant clubhouse lounges tinged with sweet tobacco and old stories, told over a glass or two of the finest whisky on offer.
While living in Asia from 2008-2018, teaching English by day and designing at night, I became all too familiar with a universal classroom dilemma:
English grammar is a royal pain in the ass.
It's tough to say which is more agonizing: Being a kid trying to learn it or figuring out how to teach it to kids whose native tongue has little to do with the inane rules I'm trying to shove in their crowded brains AFTER they've already had a full day of classes.
So, the initial goal was to design a 'quick reference' chart that would make it easier for these tortured ESL souls to learn verb tenses, and less frustrating for teachers to review them hundreds of times. Simple.
The first thing I did was devise a color-coded system that makes things a little more visually palatable to boost retention. These colors serve dual function to differentiate tense groups as well as indicate complexity:
Green = BASIC Blue = INTERMEDIATE Red = ADVANCED Purple = LUDICROUS
This system worked especially well since Present Progressive + Perfect tenses go together to make Present Perfect, just like mixing blue + red makes purple. While the chart was helpful in organizing tenses, I realized it fell short of outlining the necessary components for sentence construction - which is kind of the whole point.
So, the next logical step was a kind of 'card' that featured the basic information necessary to put together a simple (tense) sentence. Being that we had TVs in the classroom, it was formatted to fit on screen as well as half an A4 sheet of paper, so they could be viewed easily across multiple formats.
Though the cards marked the basic grammar elements, all the annotations in the world don't mean much if you're 7 years old and can barely remember how to tie your shoes, much less that 'S' is for Subject. We needed a way to introduce or review these sentence components just as quickly as the tense structure itself.
Like all habits, this one started innocently enough:
"It's just diagramming a few components man, that's all. I can stop anytime I want. I've explained these concepts hundreds, if not thousands of times on the whiteboard. I've already distilled it down to pure practicality. It'll be a quick job."
So I started with subject, verb, and object. Y'know, the soft stuff.
Then I thought, "Well, I should at least do all the major elements...seeing as how I've already got a good start with the layout format. I'll just take care of those and that's IT."
So I hit nouns, adjectives, and adverbs next. Before I could even stop to think if it was a good idea, I was getting started on conjunctions, then the clauses...and that's when I knew I had a problem:
I was hooked on grammar diagrams.
Before long I had mapped out 30 of the most commonly used grammar elements, and had unearthed another 30 in the process that I thought I should probably address.
At this point, there was no denying what had to be done, so I handed the reigns over to the muse and committed to being the workhorse that would pull this project to its destination.
Over the course of 6 months, I ended up developing a 150-page 'quick reference guide' comprised of 60 grammar elements and 12 verb tense charts. Grammar books tend to be painfully boring, so I figured I'd soften the blow a bit and give this evil a friendly face. Thus, Grammar Grandma was born.
The title was derived from one of the oldest inside classroom jokes; due to the phonetic proximity of Grammar and Grandma, announcing that it's 'Grammar Time' is a consistently easy laugh to get. Part of being a successful edutainer comes from knowledge of the material, another from your standup routine. So, I wasted no time in taking full advantage of the 'Gramma' bit:
"Get your gramma outta your book bag!"
"Don't forget about your Gramma test tomorrow."
"Let's play a Gramma game!"
You get the idea. Trust me, this stuff kills in the 10 and under crowd. It also didn't hurt that the grand matriarch is one of the most revered family members in most cultures, and thus we're all naturally receptive to learning from her. Even if she IS hiding 150 pages of pain behind that gentle smile. If you're a glutton for punishment, feel free to flip through the digitized demo copy.
Grandma's simplistic look was not a lazy designer cop-out, I swear. There is actually a reason she looks like an extra from South Park. Grandma was modeled in the mold of characters like the reigning queen of 'ke ai' - Hello Kitty. 'Ke Ai' (可爱) generally translates as 'cute', but the real essence extends far deeper than the somewhat superficial North American notion.
It is a kind of childlike, saccharine sweetness that is woven into the music, mannerisms, and visual aesthetic of the culture. Even after living there for 10 years, it remains one of the facets that is lost in translation to me. We may never know why so many things must be so very cute. Regardless of ke ai's permeating presence, what it boiled down to for me was one of the easiest logo decisions I've ever made, as well as one of the most effective.
While there are blue sky plans for a series of classroom comic books featuring Grandma subliminally teaching syntax through wacky situations, I just needed a small form-factor logo for each page in this book. Luckily, Grandma's head is conveniently detachable for that purpose.
The book had been oriented in a non-linear fashion, so that anyone could use the alphabetical table of contents to jump to whatever they needed to introduce or review (as is often the classroom case). This kind of structure made migrating everything into poster format a natural process.
Having these in the classroom to reference could've saved much frustration over the years since you have to be a born masochist to enjoy all the terminology and rules involved in English.
While the posters serve a much needed function in the classroom as a 'look, learn, love' teaching tool, they can be unwieldy when not hanging on a wall. And now that all the grammar elements had been sliced and diced for poster purpose, slapping them onto individual cards seemed like a no-brainer.
Three different sizes of flash cards were created to fill the pocket-sized gap in the bookbag, on the shelf, or myriad device screens. Speaking of screens [segue]...
There was one canvas that I hadn't splashed teal paint onto yet, and I had long since given up trying to stop this train. Gramgran.com functions wholly independent of the book, and features audio descriptions, gamified review activities, and an archivable quiz system.
If you visit the website, you can experience the same thrilling roller-coaster ride that has been offered to interested parties that I'm in the process of working with to bring this grammatical Frankenstein to the masses.
Some projects turn into a labor of love, and like many forms of love, there's often a full tank of obsession fueling it. This was not the first time I'd been whisked away by the Muse, and I'm sure it won't be the last.
Fortunately, this bout of Obsessive Compulsive Creative Desire ended with a product that is a sort of cumulative tome of my time as a teacher, and although I don't plan on walking that career path again, it's nice to have mapped the territory for my own sake as well as that of future learners and the teachers who guide them.
Though I could detail another more recent brand project, this one has a distinctly special place in my museum and my memory. It's not often that a design project arises from a life or death situation, but here's one that did.
in September 2010, a friend named Gregg Haxton was injured in a nearly fatal traffic accident. This gentleman was a lighthouse of good vibes to everyone in town, which is an especially welcome waypoint to anyone feeling like a foreigner in a foreign place, like I was at the time. Overnight, he went from superhero to ICU, and probably blew a Facebook server or two as countless friends and family congregated on his wall to express grief and well wishes.
I felt compelled to express my own sentiments by creating a kind of tribute poster in an effort to perhaps bolster troop morale and remind everybody that this guy had a little superman DNA in him.
Twas to be an homage that captured the strength of his South African spirit and his 'Gregg-ariously' positive presence in the community. Something that spoke to the pleasure (or 'plesh' as he would say) of knowing the guy. True to form, I stayed up late with the muse, posted the picture to his Facebook page at dawn, and called it a night.
Event flyer in Gregg's South African hometown
When I checked in the next day, it met with a flood of messages and comments on the post; the desired effect had been achieved.
Shortly thereafter, his many international friends + family began rallying around this posterized 'flag' of sorts, and a tremendously tight-knit community began to organize several fundraising events.
Remember kids, these were the ancient times of lore, when sites like Gofundme were still pretty much non-existent, so it was all grassroots from the get go. There was no shortage of ideas to raise money either. Apparently Greg was a pretty popular guy, and nobody was ready to see him leave the party so soon.
THE DESIGN GUY
I wasn't prepared for the response created by posting this Plesh of a poster, so I was pretty caught off guard by the fire it had stoked. I'm generally a low-profile person, but the fact was I had unintentionally megaphoned my existence as 'Ry the design guy' to the whole Hax community. I was asked and humbled to become the 'creative in chief' for anything and everything needed for operation Haxstrong.
As good as socialized healthcare systems are, when you're trying to bring a person back from near-death, you're need as much financial support as you can get. Concerts, comedy shows, and donation boxes at businesses around town were all generating support, but one of the most successful events that was held was a casino night - because nothing says cough it up like some good ol' gambling.
Featuring the Haxstrong motto, sold at every event. The first tee design of my career.
No casino night fundraiser is complete without playing card-styled flyers.
Gregg was a colorful guy, and I love designing in bright hues, so it was all apropos.
The cutting edge of CMS design at the time made it possible to accept donations online.
Thankfully, this story has a happy ending. Gregg came out of his coma 2 months after the accident, and after many more months of rehab, was back on his feet.
He was so grateful for the support that he set about immediately paying it forward, and used my inadvertent branding to found a local charity to help anyone in a tough spot.
What started as a Facebook group for friends of Gregg to organize has become as fully certified charity of 2000+ members from all over the world.
It was now 2014, and a budding charity needed a new website. Being that Haxstrong.com had become defunct in the year since Gregg's recovery, I set about building a new site at a dot-org domain that would better serve the rapidly growing organization and the community they sought to support. Armed with updated web design know-how, the new online HQ was a vast improvement over the old, and allowed for all the good stuff like a blog, rich media content, and an event calendar.
Alas, all good things must come to an end, and after 5 awesome years of being a part of Team Haxstrong, I had to retire my pro bono position of design guy in 2016 due to tightening time constraints. While I think the archived version featured here was more representative of Haxstrong's vibe, the subsequently (3rd party) redesigned site still serves its purpose as a digital depot of help and hope today.
While I wish I'd been able to continue as casual creative director, Haxstrong continues to do great things for the community to this day, and the efforts of everyone involved has touched thousands of lives and raised funds many times over to help whomever is in need. I'm honored to have been a part of something so overwhelmingly positive, and to have had the opportunity to contribute to a good cause in the best way I knew how.
Haxstrong 'Flaming Heart' icon by the multi-talented Jon Hemmings
I've worked on posters for live music, movies, marketing, and social movements. Should you need something that is more than just a glorified wall-flyer to be torn down and tossed out after an event or are looking for a bespoke private commission, let's chat.
Think Tank Threads was started out of desperation. The t-shirt offerings in Taiwan mostly consist of boxy cut, sweatshop-made garments adorned with Chinglish that fall apart after a year or shrink into a crop-top after the first wash. Being a tall man of slim build with an appreciation for long-lasting goods, the status quo wasn't gonna cut it. So I teamed up with a couple like-minded gents to supply our own disgruntled demands.
Quality and proper fit were paramount, so we started by ordering premium blanks from overseas, which is a great way to kill your profit margin.
To further distinguish our goods, we got all artisanal with it by printing tees in limited runs which were then hand-stamped and numbered.
Since our audience was mostly local expats, we tailored our styling accordingly; visual riffs on foreigner jokes mixed with whatever we thought might look cool on a tee, hat, bandana, or thong. Yes, Propaganda Panties were a real crowd pleaser.
One of the fellow founders had some lucha libre masks laying around, so we made that a nonsensical muse, and got charitable friends involved in some exceedingly amateur modeling.
I also had the pleasure of directing and editing a series of hype videos that in no way went viral, but provided an enjoyable way to gain experience working with Premiere.
In a nutshell, the venture was very exploratory and rough around the edges, not unlike the expat experience itself, but that was kind of the point. That, and a closet full of indestructible shirts.
As time went on, it became pretty clear that my biz partners meant well, but couldn't contribute much beyond brainstorming and a few rough designs.
Thus, I took care of sourcing blanks, building + maintaining web presence, marketing, and handling print setup in addition to designing most of what we were having printed.
I did my best to juggle everything along with freelance design gigs and my day job teaching English, but the work to play ratio eventually got way out of whack, so we called it quits in 2014.
In 2016, another friend started trying to sweet talk me into saddling back up for a second rodeo; apparently I'm just a workhorse that can't resist a good carrot. Since he was going to be the one handling PR and financing, I came up with a big list of names and let him fish one out of the bowl. Enter Highly Irie Future Inc.
While I like to think TTT was a good practice run, HIFI was to be a much more organized production. Chief among new priorities was a heightened web presence, more flexible e-shop, and greater emphasis on local vending events to get product out there.
The second lap around the micro clothing company track was a bit more familiar given the fair bit of experience gained running most of the TTT operations, but it hasn't been without new challenges.
Like most entrepreneurial ventures, this one has been an interesting experiment. Participating as a merchant over the course of 2018 was a learning experience. Fun is not always synonymous with easy.
A la déjà vu, I again found myself handling most of the organizational logistics due to the limited technical abilities of partners: inventory management, event scouting and scheduling, and administration of site and social media were placed on top of design duties.
The 'Designs for elevated minds' tagline speaks to the focus on our 'Mile High' audience in Colorado, as well as the aesthetic aim to imbue some aspect of the Irie vibe in all our goods.
To read more about that business philosophy or how 15% of every sale goes towards our charitable donation program, make your way to the website and have a gander at all the goods on offer while you're in the neighborhood. And as always, stay elevated!
After graduating in 2007, I was looking for any and every opportunity to rack up some design experience. One of the first big windows I jumped through was XPAT Magazine in early 2009.
In the years before Google and Facebook took over as omniscient hubs of information, there were mags of every shape and style filling the niches for foreigners learning about their new home: dining guides, orientation manuals, directories, art and music scene calendars, etc.
But XPAT was a true grassroots amalgam. Everything from short fiction, travel columns, art + culture reviews, onion-esque satire, and comics! A regular smorgasbord of volunteer contributions. And because 'the only constant is change' is especially true of the flux in the foreigner community, one of these mags was looking for a new art director, so I thought why the hell not.
After a very informal interview over some beers with the founder and editor at the time, I was 'hired' as the new creative director / design lead...or whatever the hell I wanted the title to be. XPAT was not real concerned with hard rules or pretentious titles. Perfect, neither was I.
Since it was all about unfettered expression of concepts, opinions, and ideas, there was a ton of leeway regarding the general layout of the mag. 'Put something cool on every page' was basically the only style guide, so pretty much a dream come true for a young designer.
After poring over 4 years of back catalog quarterlies, I tore into this heaping pile of potential. I was in charge of layout, new ad creation, and all the art for any article that came to us without it. There were a handful of contributing designers, so that meant I took care of ~75% of the spreads. It was an anything goes free-for-all and I loved it.
Unfortunately, there was a communication breakdown between the founder and the ad/distribution team less than a year into the gig, so I only did 2 issues before the whole thing imploded, but it remains one of my all-time favorite passion projects and life experiences.
I had been teaching English at Schoolhouse Language Center in Taiwan for 2 years when their (very) antiquated website was hacked. The owner knew of my night job as a pixel pusher and asked if I could provide a better quote than the local geeks. I delivered a competitive estimate and my day job and night job were united in purely professional matrimony.
Getting hacked is never a good thing, but it did bring some much needed attention to the poorly maintained state of the original website. It was your standard 'set it and forget it' case that had been largely abandoned by the previous admin after the job was finished; no asset archive, no backups, no security protocols.
But sometimes it's better to rebuild from scratch and it's not like we had a choice since the hack had pretty much razed everything. I got the domain transferred to a reliable hosting service and weighed the infrastructure options.
I've worked with various content management systems over the years, but Wordpress is still my favorite. Though it wasn't as flexible or intuitive as it is nowadays, it was still a perfect fit due to the myriad functionality and (multi) user-friendly accessibility that would be utilized by dozens of staff spread across 20+ school locations.
Implementing this CMS allowed for the creation of a school directory, dedicated recording archive, and individual pages in which branch managers could independently create their own content as well as feature posts on the front page.
Wordpress has always been a practical choice for hosting large amounts of various media, so it was ideal for organizing and presenting the catalog of materials that would be used by teachers in the classroom and students at home.
Although the school's ownership hasn't expressed much interest in updating the now somewhat outmoded aesthetic of the theme (I can appreciate the 'if it ain't broke, don't fix it' efficiency), it continues to serve their needs quite adequately. As sole designer and admin since 2013, I take care of all site functions and maintenance, including regular updates, security, asset management, backups, email routing, and tech support.
Like several projects I've worked on, this one started out as a logo gig. The client was pretty pleased with the end product and asked if I could do the website and companion app. I'd had a bit of experience with web design at this point, but zero knowledge of app design, so naturally I said it'd be no problem.
ABCS of Chinese is the brainchild of a gentleman who is quite possibly more of a workaholic than I am. His Chinese ability was certainly light years ahead of mine, so the fact that he had developed a proprietary system to learn Chinese was no big surprise. I have a profound appreciation for anybody with the work ethic to bootstrap their vision so thoroughly.
Having a client who knows exactly what they want can go badly, but this client gave direction as well as he received constructive feedback, so it turned into one of those rare client-relationships where there is a completely balanced and harmonic mutual respect for everyone's vision and input. Stress-free collaborations are always a bonus.
Mind you, these were still relatively early days in app design, so of course I'd approach the project in an entirely different way now. Although considering the landscape at the time, it's still a product everyone involved should be proud of - at least in scope if not polished execution.
That said, all mockups had to be created in Photoshop, redrawn in Illustrator, and exported as SVG assets for implementation. I worked in close communication with the development team during the process and have nothing but respect and admiration for coders who can understand languages that make Chinese look easy. UI-specific software would've been a godsend back then, but at least they've made it easy to drag old files onto a new canvas.