Saturday, November 19, 2011

A Walmart in downtown Athens

It's sad that Athens lacks any vision for its future. Or that our little county-city isn't sufficiently valued to the extent of having safeguards protecting our small footprint from raw business interests.

I asked my informed urban planning friend Jacob Lindsey, a UGA Landscape Architecture graduate now working in Charleston, about this. Jacob worked for a small firm that hired Candy to provide naming and marketing for several projects in the greater Charleston area and sponsored an art exhibit I created on the topic of Charleston's history (Charleston Historical Art, Dude!). He now has his own company, Fabric Urban Design, LLC. Here's a portion of his response:

"I think part of the problem is cultural, as decision makers (elected officials, land owners, developers) come from a tradition that's especially unsophisticated in regard to planning matters. They also have the classic Southern land ethic that regards land as nothing more than a vehicle for profit.

"Contrast: In Charleston, there's a clear understanding that any kind of development comes with tremendous design review and public scrutiny, which all developers fear and take into account prior to any design effort. We also attract a relatively savvy developer, as this place has a somewhat more competitive and mature real estate market. This drives up land values but also can also spur better quality.

"Athens is a real hard nut to crack, from a planning perspective, and it really breaks my heart to see [stuff] like this happening."

I realized from this that, all too often, all we Athenians have is an after-the-fact "public scrutiny"—or more accurately, public outcry—as a tool against bad development and/or historical preservation plans. And it's a really crude tool.

Fully frustrated, I composed this juvenile anti-Walmart graphic (above). But I wish I knew how our city—which is seen as being so cool and progressive to people I meet from elsewhere—could develop a vision for our future that would be supportive of new economic development of the sort that would contribute to our better features and our seriously great potential. To me that would be businesses that hired more than minimum-wage workers, provided high calibre products and services, and helped to foster—rather than just benefit from—our cultural frameworks. You know, along the lines of a Blue Heron River District.

Because of his experience and insight, I'll conclude here with Jacob Lindsey's follow-up comments, questions and suggestions:

"It's worth mentioning that Charleston's tradition of public development review starts at the conceptual stage and typically has 2 or 3 phases, if all goes well. Some projects can stay in public review phase for years if the developers can't get things right. This attitude is a often a problem for "good" projects, and can be politically manipulated to fight personal vendettas, but in general has prevented the city from being wrecked over the past 70 years.

"Unfortunately Wal-Mart is the 'worst of the worst' when it comes to development practices, so the only option is to fight and kill the project.

"How far along is the project? Does it require a rezoning or variances? Where can opposition groups apply pressure?

"I think some enlightened and motivated Athenians should form a shadow government of public review sessions, exposing every development project to the public in an unofficial way. Setup a venue for the public critique of development projects and invite an outside expert panel to review them (I'll volunteer!). Vince Graham did this when he created the 'East Cooper Planning Council,' which he used to help influence the design of streets in Mt. Pleasant a few years ago."

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Bloodkin 7-inch vinyl design

Candy has worked with the long-running and excellent Athens band Bloodkin to provide CD packaging, posters and stickers a number of times over the years; in fact, Bloodkin was one of our first Candy customers—for their 1996 album Creeperweed. We also designed Out Of State Plates and the band's frontman Daniel Hutchens' release Lesser. Now we've done a vinyl single for the band and the Athens record label Analogue Records.

Working with Daniel Peiken and Hunter Hoskins of Analogue and Daniel from the band, Candy was asked to incorporate the USA flag-based artwork of Georgia folk artist Ab Ivens. Our other constraint, as with most jobs, was cost—there is no obvious way to produce gorgeous custom packaging when the quantity is around 300-500 units.

For the record label, we stuck to one print color and picked from the vendor's stock ink offerings. The design is lifted from a photo I took of an Ab Ivens art piece that Daniel owns (with permission of the artist, of course), and the resulting star was placed in the center of the spindle hole so it would rotate when the record is played. The text is in a "design-free" font and shoved off to the edges with a circular alignment so it could "spin."

The cover design is an example of Candy Efficiency; we borrowed a format that Candy devised for our recent 7-inch single packaging for the Athens band Supercluster. Instead of getting actual covers printed, die-cut and glued into sleeves, many bands these days use folded one-sided print sheets that wrap around the record and the whole held together by a clear plastic slip cover. The Candy design adds a flap to this approach, providing two benefits: a space to include wordy credits that is attached to the packaging but not visible when in the slipcover, and a barrier to keep the record from slipping out if the slipcover opening is on the side.

The printing was farmed out to the national online company Discmakers because they offer 11" x 17" band promotional posters at a price that is remarkably cheap for digital printing at this scale. (Candy prefers to use local vendors but our primary fidelity is to our customers and their budget!) We used almost every inch of the "poster" by adding the flap to the single cover and attaching a second print job, a narrow 3" x 17" poster. This layout requires us to carefully measure and consult with Bel-Jean Copy/Print Center in downtown Athens who provided the cutting and scoring so Analogue can assemble the covers.

It's great that bands still want to release their music on physical media of any kind, vinyl included. Candy is happy to play a small role in the Athens music scene by working on projects like Bloodkin's!

Friday, July 1, 2011

Candy wins award for volunteer work

Going way back to the time that Candy started up—around 1996—Michael has done pro bono ("denoting work undertaken for the public good without charge") work for the Mental Health Association of Northeast Georgia's annual fundraiser, entitled "The Mental Health Benefit." On Tuesday, the association (now named Mental Health America of Northeast Georgia) held a banquet and presented Michael with this award for Outstanding Volunteer.

The award is named for Hans Peter Dietrich; he approached Michael way back then about doing a poster and related designs for the benefit. While Hans' involvement in the annual event ended quite a few years ago, Michael has continued to provide new campaign designs every year.

The Candy role in the marketing effort of the benefit has varied with the fluctuating energy and changing directors over the years. In some of those years it was an ambitious effort that included the poster, billboards, postcards, t-shirts, ads, bus signs, cable TV spots, stickers, and event-specific literature—and Candy had a role in every element. But the one consistent element has been the event poster.

Usually measuring 18x24 inches, the large scale poster is a refreshing change from the more ubiquitous 11x17 or letter-sized posters commonly seen around town. They've been either two or three spot color designs with full bleed and have all been printed by the Georgian Press as part of their generous in-kind sponsorship.

For Candy, the best aspect of doing this work has been the freedom! The kind people at Mental Health America have given Candy full reign to develop campaign concepts and designs without any interference. Candy has successfully weened the posters of excessive detail and sponsor logos—arguing that the poster is more effective if it can elegantly attract attention to the event while allowing the other media (display ads, postcards, website) to provide the nitty-gritty.

Another key role that Candy played was to help the benefit play up its message to "fight the stigma associated with mental illness." As that was a recurring theme, we placed more emphasis on that message in the designs and also by advising the association to adopt the website domain URL,

Attending the banquet this week was really beneficial. Learning more about the work of Mental Health America, how the $7,190 they raised with this year's benefit was put to use via five mini-grants to local organizations, and being in a room full of hard working and dedicated mental health medical, legal, and counseling professionals and volunteers was inspiring. And I'm happy to report that it has motivated me to want to work for the benefit again in 2012. Fight the stigma!

Monday, June 27, 2011

Candy designs grace American Pie IV movie

That's right: American Pie, the movie. The film at hand is actually entitled American Reunion—the characters are now all around 30, and they're back together after various life changes.

Right now in Conyers, Georgia, near the Olympic horse park in a huge building that once housed a Japanese manufacturing concern, the offices and sound stage for American Pie IV are tucked away in a wooded industrial park. Lucky for Candy, our friend Jennifer Blair thought to call when filming was imminent for an office scene (shot at a location near Atlanta); they needed to decorate a cubicle with some design work that someone had the rights to.

I sent a number of designs for various projects, many of them personal side projects or branding ideas that hadn't been put into action beyond a graphic and a web presence. They chose 10 different designs that were sent as PDF's for printing in-house and by a vendor.

The three that you see here were printed large, 40 x 30 inches. New Young Americans was an idea for a website to encourage voting by young people. Natural Purity is a modeling agency that still is working with models—and that lead into the founding of our magazine Young, Foxy & Free. Cream Jeans was an idea for a pop-up shop to sell denim jeans.

Elsewhere in the movie is a cork board loaded with ephemera that includes our buttons, stickers, and more graphics. All of the work is for the Set Decoration department of the film—although the Joy All Over It koozies might make it into the Prop department. 

Fun stuff! It's nice to be paid for intellectual property that isn't doing much and to provide items that might get some camera time. It's a great outlet and exposure for Candy. Thank you Jennifer, Bill, David, American Reunion, and Universal Studios!

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

ACHF logo and newsletter

The Candy touch was recruited by Athens-Clarke Heritage Foundation in July of 2010 when Michael was asked to be on the board and become the chair of the Communications committee. This is a working board—the trustees really do put in time and effort according to their core skill set and interests. So the first projects at hand were the logo, newsletter, Facebook, website, email messaging, and similar elements of integrated marketing communication.

Athens-Clarke Heritage Foundation was founded in 1967 and is "the leading advocate for the importance of historic preservation to the future of the Athens community." The board of trustees had been toying with their logo when I came on board. I felt that their well-intentioned effort was heading in the wrong direction and argued for a more conservative design than the contemporary direction they had tried out. I suggested that the logo needed to represent history, consistency, balance and permanence—just like a well-designed and built building. I wanted to go back to the core of the organization's legacy logo, an illustration of their headquarters in Firehall No. 2 set inside an attractive oval. I addressed their desire to emphasize the word "Heritage" by stacking what had previously been a long linear name below the graphic.

To build the logo, we were lucky that executive director Amy Kissane was able to get a clean digital file of an early version of the firehall design by Ron Evans of the now-closed Kudzu Graphics. I chose the font Caslon since it was the main font in use at the time of Athens' founding. The logo was well-received by the board and will soon find expression in revamped letterhead and other materials.

Next was the newsletter which had been fallow for a couple years but was viewed as an important communications tool by the executive director and the board—especially for members who are less inclined to get their information online. Working closely with board president Jennifer Lewis and designer Eleonora Machado, a typical Candy approach resulted in a redesign of the newsletter. Rather than maintain the elegant yet extravagantly printed large 3-panel design that had been designed by R.E.M. graphic designer Chris Bilheimer, or to revert to the generic newsletter format that ACHF had used previously, I suggested a digest-sized booklet that would have more the feel of a magazine. I proposed that we'd extend the reach of the newsletter beyond being a perk for members by printing extra copies to disseminate in the community—for the dual purposes of being able to convey a fuller understanding of our activities so as to advance our standing, and to deliver a membership sign-up form wrapped in 23 pages of illuminating information.

Jennifer Lewis devised a content list for the first issue, harangued the board members for their articles and photos, enlisted board member Tom Wilfong as meticulous editor, and conveyed the resulting content to Eleonora Machado who expertly assembled the results according to the Candy vision. A black-on-cream 24-page booklet was printed by Athens Printing Company. Also, for the first time, ACHF now has a full-color online edition of the newsletter available via for convenient viewing and to download as a PDF!

Thanks to the efforts of these many people and their trust in the new ideas foisted on them by Michael at Candy, the Athens-Clarke Heritage message is receiving better circulation with a more intact identity. I look forward to helping the group continue this effort in the near future. And I encourage you to check out our new newsletter and invite you to attend our 42nd Annual Preservations Awards on the UGA Campus on Monday, June 13!

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Another satisfied customer

We did it again—another low-cost logo!

After reading a previous post on this blog about a $100 logo, we were contacted by a principal at a new boutique event planning business in Athens named Swoon.

We explained that a logo is cheap if the design is smart and fast. Swoon co-founder Ashley assured us that the Swoon crew knew what they wanted and could make solid decisions. So we started, trying to realize their concept of using typographer's flourishes as they'd seen in old books, and using a lower-case typewriter font.

After some asymmetric versions, we quickly migrated to the ye-old standby: pure symmetry. In the end, Swoon was very pleased even as our regular rate brought the price up to $165.

Swoon's website and marketing materials aren't in effect quite yet, but if you'd like to contact Swoon for a carefully cultivated event, just let Michael know and we'll hook you up!

Monday, August 30, 2010

Young, Foxy & Free in 3D!

This is gonna be so huge!

So far, we've only found two examples of this in the national media: a monthly issue of The Skateboard Mag has a photo shoot in 3D along with red-blue glasses sponsored by Converse, and Armani Exchange has a 2-page spread in the new GQ with the glasses to view the ad as well as an online video.

Then there's the little art-photo-music-design-fashion free quarterly magazine in Athens, Georgia—Young, Foxy & Free. And on September 22 it will hit the streets with free glasses in a free magazine featuring scenes from all around Athens in glorious anaglyph 3D.

Get ready to get your copy! Ad partners, be sure to order your ad ASAP—deadline September 9.