Wednesday, June 8, 2016

Design: Organically Grown


     There's nothing in this world like a nice Hot, Home-Cooked Meal.  There really isn't.  The food always tastes better than anything else you usually will ever eat, or remember eating, and your home smells amazing for hours and hours long after it's been cooked. Our warmest memories in life usually revolve around a hot meal with friends and family at the table (or in front of the television. lol.)  That's usually what everyone remembers most and looks forward to:  A Slowly-Cooked-on-the-Stove-Good-Old-Fashioned-Hot-Home-Meal.  It could cure the world of whatever is ailing it, in my opinion.



     I am thinking about this because I just cooked a meal this evening. Granted the vegetarian stuffing-stuffed "Turkey" fillets were frozen then baked in the oven, but the yellow summer squash and onions and the fresh spinach sauteed down in butter certainly was cooked from scratch on the stove.  My apartment smelled SO wonderful that I found myself going outside then walking back in just so I could smell it all over again, like the moment I was cooking it.  Food is so very important to the sentimental core of our lives.  It's present at almost every important occasion and most of the time denotes the occasion, the mood and success of the event that it's present at.  Every baby is showered or christened into this world with good food and annually celebrated with a delicious flaming cake.  Every married couple is celebrated to a toast of Champagne.  Christmas, Thanksgiving (if you're American), New Year's Eve, Valentines Day... Even at the end of someones life, it is a tradition for everyone to cook and bring something for the grieving family.  The list goes on and on, but you get the point.  Food is more than just something we do to stay alive; it is a vital and important part in our life.  And for something so important, so central, you may find yourself wanting to make sure that what you eat, when you eat, is worth it.


     The past year and a half, I had been thinking a lot about what I was eating and I got an opportunity to create something that would inspire others do the same... or at least consider it.  I was hired to create a logo for a new Grocery Shop, the Center Stage Market. The Market was opening in my local community. It specializes, not only in Organic Foods, but more specifically Food that is grown and cultivated right here in Georgia.  I was excited to work on this project and learn more about Georgia Foods. 
 
     To give me some sort of starting point, Kat (the shop owner), gave me quite a bit of reference materials to work with as I really had no knowledge of the farming world, food industry or the food market in general, let alone knowledge about food that is growing, quite literally, in our back yards.  And as some of you out there know, I TOTALLY am down for some good ole fashioned research when I'm working on an Art project.  If I'm not informed on the subject, I want to get informed about it. So I "dig." lol ;0)


     Kat gave me books that entailed information about organic farming and Georgia farming, brochures about organic food cooperatives and much more. It was quite an enriching education that I crammed into a short amount of time but thanks to all that wonderful college-cramming training, I was able to absorb a lot of that information.  One of the things I read about during the time I worked on that project was the Slow Food Movement.  Even though I had already been in the habit of cooking a lot of my food from home and from scratch or semi-scratch, I fell in love with what these groups of people were doing all over the world. It's an amazing and intriguing subject to read up on. Even though, I had plenty of information to get started with, I still wasn't sure about what I wanted to do for the logo. 



     Now contrary to most cliches, not everything an artist does, or comes up with, appears in their heads like a swift jolt of creative lightening. This sometimes is the case but 97% of the time, we artists have to work for all that "good stuff."  Like anything that is worth anything in this life, it takes time and hard work to achieve it. 


     I'd say that the best art one does in life usually takes a whole lot of love and a lot of work. The percentage of each varies from project to project.  The progress is slow and sometimes the evolution of the work can also be slow. This isn't necessarily a bad thing.  "Slow and steady wins the race," as the fable tells us and this particular project that I completed last year is no exception. 
  
     A little over a year and a half ago, I was approached by Kat to create a logo for her newest venture, a grocery store that would embrace and encompass what was already being done with the Picky Eaters Co-Operative, but taking this to the next level: Making these foods accessible to the entire community, not just to the members of Picky Eaters.  She would sell not only hard to find organic food products but feature produce, meat and dairy products from Georgia only Farmers. 


     This concept really excited me and I accepted Kat's job and challenge to create a design that would represent this new venture.  As always, I began with a lot of research.  I confess I knew little about Food Co-operatives at the time, and even less about the agricultural industry of my home state, Georgia.  I had a lot to learn in a very short amount of time… Kel surprise. Lol.


     As an aside: I've always been a very studious individual. I love learning and learning about new things.  Unfortunately we can't spend our lives making a living as professional students. School eventually ends and we all must move on.  This obviously doesn't mean we have to stop learning.  I get really excited when a project comes along and I get to learn something brand new to prepare my mind to create something related to that research. I guess this trait is what always will define me as a nerd or geek, because I get REALLY Excited about learning and about new things I previously never knew about.

     As I stated previously, good design does take time and you could compare it to the agricultural analogy of growing organic foods.  So you might say that I was planting the seeds of this design project by burying myself deep into new and intriguing information; allowing my mind to be enriched and soak in all that I was learning and setting in my creative roots to grow something. Didn't know what I would be growing as of yet, but it would definitely be something.

      Before we move forward and talk about some of the concepts and ideas that grew from my research, allow me to sprinkle a few did bits about Food Co-Operatives and The Slow Food Movement:

     Picky Eaters was a food Co-Operative and a Food Co-Operative is a food distribution outlet organized as an autonomous association of people united voluntarily to meet their common economic, social, and cultural needs and aspirations through a jointly owned and democratically controlled business.  Food cooperatives are usually just members of a community that get together and make decisions regarding the production and distribution of the group's food are chosen by its members. Food cooperatives typically offer natural/organic foods.  Since decisions about how to run a cooperative are not made by outside shareholders, cooperatives often exhibit a higher degree of social responsibility than their corporate grocery chain store comparatives. 

Food Co-operatives follow the 7 Cooperative Principles. These are:
1. Open membership.
2. Democratic control (one person, one vote).
3. Distribution of surplus in proportion to trade.
4. Payment of limited interest on capital.
5. Political and religious neutrality.
6. Cash trading (no credit extended).
7. Promotion of education.

     You may be wondering why people would go to great lengths to grow, distribute and purchase food in this manner.  Well, many people believe that the processing and globalization of food.  Mass production and distribution decreases its nutritional value, shelf life and in many cases becomes unhealthy to consume.  This isn't just the use of pesticides, growth hormones injected into animals or salt content of processed/packaged foods, this is also because of genetically engineered and grown produce that attribute to and cause many of the major health issues people now face: heart disease, acquired food and drug allergies and even cancer.  So you can see why people would prefer organic foods that are produced on a smaller scale and distributed by groups like the Picky Eaters here in Americus

     In a previous blog post, I discussed a little about the Slow Food movement so I won't go too much into what it is, but it's a grass roots movement that was founded in Italy in 1986 and is the opposing side of the Fast Food Industry.  Participants of this movement strive to preserve traditional and regional cuisine and encourage farming of plants, seeds and livestock that are characteristic to your local region and local ecosystem.  Its goals of sustainable foods and promotion of local small businesses are parallel with a political agenda directed against globalization of agricultural products. 

     You can learn more about Food Co-operatives and the Slow Food Movement by clicking on the below linked Images.



     Lets talk about the Ideas; the seeds of what eventually grew into the final design for the Center Stage Market's Logo.  I worked on this for several days, coming up with many different ideas that would possibly represent what this store would be.  In the beginning there was going to be elements to the store that untimely ended up either evolving into something similar or just being weeded out entirely by the time the store actually opened.  Kat and I worked on this design project together over the course of a little over a year before it was completed.  It was a true collaboration of ideas that shaped the final design.  However, in the beginning, the store was still in development and I was designing for what it would possibly be at that time.  So in that sense it was challenging because certain things that were originally planned for the store would be changed.  The design of the logo quite literally grew organically with the development of the store it was to represent simultaneously, which was an interesting experience and one that does not "sprout up" too often. ;0)

     Some of the things, that were originally planned for the store and may come to fruition for it in the future, were creating a stage from the expansive windows that make up the front of the store.  There were, originally, going to be local musicians that would play live at the store while people shopped.  Even though, this did not come to be, you may see a variety of things going on in the windows of the store front.  Occasionally I see artists working on their art in those windows.  It’s a variation of the original idea and I loved it.  This was one of the primary reasons the Market would be called Center Stage, referencing the actual stage that would be in the store.  This concept was also to be combined with a sandwich or cafe style seating area where customers could come in for lunch and enjoy the afternoon music.  For many logistical reasons, this idea was taken off the table, but the name of the Market remained because it was also a reference to bringing the Farmers and Good Organically Grown Local Foods back to the Center Stage, which is the slogan and one of the founding principles of the market.  My point in mentioning these details of this project is that many of the ideas that were originally created for it were changed for these reasons.  As the store model would change, so would its iconic representation.  With that said, let's take a look at the menu…

There were 12 Ideas created for this Logo.
Logo Concepts for the Center Stage Market in the order they were created:

     Idea 1: Kat sent me many images on Pinterest to help me understand the nature of and visual direction that the market was taking.  Also, once the store location had been renovated, I would meet with her for her to show me certain things to provide inspiration and additional direction for the logo design.  On one such meeting, Kat showed me these beautiful wood slat crates that she uses to place the market's produce in.  I really liked them and it did inspire me to add certain elements into the logo, some of which made it into the final design.  This particular image was inspired by those wood slat crates.  I really like the idea of creating a scratch board image (a medium I had been experimenting with at the time she hired me) and I thought it would bring an intriguing aesthetic to the design. I played with visually combining the domestic activities of cooking and eating with the process of growing and cultivating food.  In this image the plate and the cutlery would be organically growing as if they were still planted in the ground. It was to have a wood cut print look to it and would have been illustrated in scratch board.  The typography would be organic and handmade in nature.


     Idea 2:  The main objectives I needed to remember about this project were:
-Food is the Primary Focus,
-This market is about making LOCAL, FRESH and HEALTHY foods accessible.
- It is about bringing our local COMMUNITY together and connecting it to the LOCAL Agriculture.
In this second image, I was going to make the market's founder, Kat, into part of the branding itself. I was going to illustrate her likeness into the main central figure.  That figure is holding a bag or basket or box of fresh organic foods.  She is flanked by toothier figures that would visually represent the community.  The circular frame around them would represent a plate and would have a variety of fresh foods that would border around the plate. 


     Idea 3:  In this concept, I wanted to use the plate element and transform it into a series of repeating circular images. In each "plate" there would be a silhouette "Cut-out" that represented the domestic, the agriculture or this community in some way.  It was going to have a very clean or modern aesthetic to it.


     Idea 4: This concept focused more on integrating the "spotlight" element into the logo.  The plate would have an arrangement of illustrated food in the shape of the "healthy heart." The plate itself would be come the center of a "Sun" image which represents on of the 2 main sources of life and an important source of energy that grows our food.  The rays of the Sun would have been made up of either vegetables or hand prints representing the community we live in and the "fuel" that keeps us going.  The illustrated icon would look like a stamp or screen printed design that would be placed on a Brown grocery bag design element. The brown rectangular bag would provide a vertical framing for the logo.


     Idea 5A: This concept explored more of the stage element for the design. 
You would have a plate setting with the image etched on the plate of a farm scene with abstract people representing the community the farm house in the center of this scene would have a heart cutout made up of two leaves.
It would then be framed by the wood slats and a series of farm crop rows would make a curtain shape outside of the place setting, creating the “stage” for the market.

     Idea 5B: This is the same visual concept except we take the curtain element and place it inside the plate setting and remove the slate frame from around it.


     Idea 6A:  This concept combined the aesthetics of old fashioned general store signs that you might associate with the late 29th century and early twentieth century sign design with the complex and ornate design of theater marquees.  The Plate would be the central architectural feature of the “marquee” and other surrounding elements would echo architectural elements that make up the structure of a physical theatrical stage. These elements would be comprised of a variety of fresh foods.


     Idea 6B:  This idea is the same basic concept as 6A but the “marquee” is comprised mainly of the wood slat crate full of fresh veggies and the plate still being the central element of the marquee would feature the farmhouse image with the Leaf-Heart cutout.



     Idea 7A & 7B:  These two concepts are a further extension of the concept for Idea 6A&6B, but are alternative designs of different style theatrical marquees and how it they could be assembled.  So essentially 6A, 6B, 7A & 7B all fall under the same creative concept, but are just different ways it could be executed.


     Idea 8:  You may already recognize this particular thumbnail concept as it is the origin for what the final design for the market came from.  Believe it or not, this was my “throw-away” idea and by this I mean it was just some fun thought that popped into my head and I threw it in the mix but never really took it seriously because I didn’t think that Kat or anyone else would take it seriously.  It’s kind of funny how things work out that way.  I never intended that anyone would ever go for this idea. It was just something cheeky and fun that popped in my imagination as I was brain storming for other alternative ideas for this design.  The concept is basically an homage or Meme, if you will, to Shakespeare’s Hamlet pose. However, the actor is a farmer and the “skull” he is holding a peach, to represent the Peach State of Agriculture.  I thought the peach could be replaced with any food or a bag of market fresh groceries.  Behind him is a “scene” on the farm where he contemplates, “To Farm or Not to Farm? That is the Question.”  He is then Frame by a diamond shape made of the Wood Slats which were an over simplified “curtain” shape.


     To be honest I was thinking in my own head, “To Draw or Not To Draw?” but I was just being silly with myself to break my focus thought on creating ideas, which I find a very efficacious way to brainstorm.  Thin, think, think, think, play, think, think, think play, play, think some more.  It’s ridiculous but it works.  I really almost didn’t pitch it in my original presentation of these concepts to Kat, but I told her that I came up with it just for fun, thinking she might find it amusing and we would move on to select something else.  But she really did like the idea of this little guy and it spoke to her.  Art really does become different things to other people once artists put it out there in the universe.


     Idea 9:  This concept really relied on something that was trending in screen printing here in Georgia at the time.  Creating designs about the state of Georgia with the image of the state of Georgia.  It still is pretty popular in various areas of the state.  I used the state cutout inside the plate and placed my farming image inside with the 2-Leaf heart. Various fresh produce would surround the plate framing it.  This concept really didn’t integrate any of the theatrical nature of the market’s name, but, again, It was a design based out of a trend that I saw and got caught up in.


     Idea 10:  I took what I liked from Concept 8 and created something with the Georgia Peach as this is the agricultural food that is most associated with Georgia.  Just an F.Y.I.: I learned on this project that North Carolina is actually the “Peach” state. They produce the largest percentage of the Nations Peach crops and really deserve that title more. Georgia should really be called the Blueberry State as we produce the largest percentage of Blueberries here.  Anyway, I thought I would bring the cutler inside of my plate image this time and create a sort of crop with the fork-skewered-peach.  I was also incorporating certain local buildings specific to Americus in this version of the logo.  I would create “arts” sun rays around the plate creating the Sun or Spotlight element and the overall aesthetic was to be like a mono-print. Actually had this been the selected concept, I had planned to print several mono-prints until I had a very clean one that I would eventually create into the logo.


     Idea 11:  In this concept, I wanted to use the wood slate produce storage bins that Kat would be using for her store, but this time it would be seen from the top or “bird’s eye” view.  You would be looking down as a viewer into a bin full of fresh foods.  In the center of the mix the food would create an image of two hands holding a heart that would have probably been made of peaches.  This was, of course, before I learned that Georgia was the Blueberry State.  There would be a division in the bin below for the typography of the Market’s Name.  I have to confess that this concept was probably my favorite out of all the ideas.  I really liked the idea of creating what community “felt” like by representing it as food arranged and sorted or crowded about in the storage bins.  You see, as an artist, I can’t help but see things that really aren’t there in things that are. I just imbue meaning into ordinary everyday things.  Where as everyone else would see a bin full of fresh foods, I see a community represented by heads of lettuce and stray carrots and farm fresh eggs and cartons of milk.  I imagine all these things as people and think about what sort of personalities each of them have based on what they are.  I would also see the image that a bunched group of random vegetables make.  It’s akin to seeing things in the clouds.  Only you really see it sometimes.  I do this all the time every day.  SO if you catch me day dreaming or staring into space, you can bet that I’m looking at something that isn’t there, but really is there.  I think that is why this concept was my favorite above all… because it reminded me of me a bit and how I view the world.  I thought it would be neat to simplify that into a graphic image to represent the Market.


     Idea 12:  Last but certainly not least was my second favorite idea, which was the last concept I came up with for this project.  I took the dinner place setting and the farm and integrated the two together in a more conclusive way than I had in previous ideas.  I decided that this logo would be a circular one and the plate would have a ribbon that would be made up of a napkin or of a burlap sack.  The cutlery of the place setting would be what is being planted in the ground (represented by the visual banner that crosses over the center of the plate.)  The spoon/tree/crop would have “rays” that radiate outward implying the Sun and the Spotlight and the Forks would become trees.  You see a barn and a farm house amongst the crop rows above.  Below would be an intricate yet simplified network of the root system of the 3 pieces of cutlery.  You would see a variety of foods intermingled in between the roots.  Personally as an artist, I am most attracted by texture in art and architecture and this logo concept would embody that. It would be completely about texture in the simplest way I could.  This image would also have the mono-print print style aesthetic to it.



...Now Breath….
     It’s always good to take a break from a long article. It’s healthy. ;0)
A lot happened and was produced over the course of this project and I wanted to talk about it from conception to seeing the store itself with its final signage. So stretch your legs, stand up, spin around…
     Or whatever it is that you do when you take a break from reading
We still have a ways to go.  Lol



     After my initial presentation of these ideas to Kat, we took the time to really “weed out” the ideas that just really wouldn’t work. She expressed her interest in 3 of the ideas that really spoke to her.  She wanted me to work them up a bit more and refine those 3 so she could make a final decision on which direction we would be GROWING.

     Kat really liked Ideas 12, 5A and, of course, 8 (the chosen one.)
So the next step was to care for the little seedlings and by this, I mean developing the details of the thumbnails and defining them more into fully fleshed out ideas.  The little saplings were growing along well and I was pleased with the outcome of all three ideas.  I felt like any of the 3 would be strong candidates to represent the Market well. 


     Kat gravitated to the Farmer holding the Blueberry. She had previously given me some notes on what to add to it specifically. One was to make the peach a blueberry. She also wanted me to add a cow and chicken and take out most of the farm scene.  We had discussed also about making a sunrise behind the characters. This would both simplify the image and also give the farmer and his gesture more emphasis.  Kat made the decision at this meeting to go with the Shakespeare-inspired farmer.
     However, like many newly sprouted crops, this one was not quite ready for the plate just yet.  It had a lot of growing left to do.  The design evolved into different things at this stage in the project.  We replaced the crop rows with grass.  We brought back the slat wood diamond shaped frame. We replaced the blueberry with another of Georgia main agricultural crops, the turnip and we also played with the placement of the cow and the chicken. 
     The Farmer also went through a variety of transformations.  Kat wanted him to have the likeness or appeal of a Paul Bunyan sort in the beginning. We made him more of a Man-like Character by increasing his stature and adding muscles and changing the proportions of his body structure.  We also made a female version of the farmer.  However, in the end we just came back to the first farmer as there was just something about him that had an appeal that the other variations of the farmer character did not.  I’m not really quite certain what gives him more appeal than any of the others, because the other characters would have also worked out well, I think.  He just… WORKS.  And so we were ready to move forward with the final graphic work for the illustrated element of the logo.

     I etched the illustrated image out of scratch board.  I really wanted the image to have that woodcut print feel to it.  I admit I have never made a woodcut before.  I had experience in linoleum cut prints.  I thought I could create the “feel” of woodcut through the scratch board medium.  After I was done with the illustration, B was kind enough to photograph it for me. 


**Just a note about scratch board work (for any of you wanting to dabble or experiment in it): You can’t scan it into your computer, you have to light it and photograph it if you want the image to be digitally accessible.  For whatever reason a flatbed scanner cannot capture the image if you create it on scratch board.  Sad but true.

     Once I had my illustration in a digital format I was able to manipulate it and vectorize it.  One thing I remember about this project is that even though the illustration looked great on the scratch board, I found that it was TOO DETAILED to be applied for use in a branding system.  So I spent A LOT of time deleting and “cleaning” up the illustration afterward to make it simplified enough for logo use but also still keep enough detail to echo that woodcut print aesthetic I was going for.





     At this point our design is only HALFWAY GROWN in its field.  The Icon may be complete, but now we begin the other half of our farming design adventure: typography and layout.



     I usually handle these 2 parts of a branding system simultaneously.  For most logo designs, the layout and design composition are already in place after I create thumbnails.  There may be some minor tweaking, but ultimately, it’s already in place.  I find that when I was working on this project, it was hard work every step all of the way.  
I’m not quite certain why it was so, but it’s just funny that it took a long organic process to get through to the final design on this project and that the project was to represent a market that specializes in food that is grown much the same way; no short cuts, just plain everyday hard work to reap the final rewards.
When I look back on this project, I find that part both poetic and fitting. I think to myself, “of course! This is exactly how this should be done.”
I’m never afraid to just “Dig in” to something and work a little harder to make sure that it’s done right and that not only is the client satisfied with the end result, but also that I am as well. 







     So I created and played with the layouts and discussed them with Kat in a few different meetings.  I used mock typography in them just to show placement and arrangement of text.  These meetings were usually over some great coffee and snacks at our local coffee shop, Cafe Capesino, which I remember Kat remarking that you may find her there quite often.  Anyway, we would have split meetings there at the coffee shop spending half of our time looking at layouts options I had come up with and the other half of the time looking at type options and arrangements that I would also come up with.  The logo grew over the course of these particular meetings and evolved into the final design that you can now see on the store front itself. 




     Our last few meeting were on the subject of color.  I usually always tend to research concept appropriate color schemes and options.  If I recall correctly we ended up combining a few of the colors from a couple of the different schemes into the final color palate used in the final logo.  Even though color choice in a branding system is very important, it felt more like a foot note in this project; more of a trimming-up of the final grown crop to get it ready for harvest.  I felt the journey and heavy work of this design project lay more from the conception and development of the illustrated image and also a bit in the typography portion.  It makes sense.  For you green thumbs out there; the hardest part is to grow from the seed and nurse the seed into its full potential.  I feel that the process of creating this brand was very similar. 

     The logo was ready roughly around 6 months before Kat was ready to open.  I was very eager to share it but naturally (and legally) needed to wait until she opened before I could share this project with everyone. 

     The Center Stage Market is alive and open for business here in Downtown Americus. They specialize in Fresh Regional Produce, Meat and Seafood.  They also have a variety of great Specialty groceries that you’re not going to find just anywhere. So I encourage everyone who is local or close enough to be local to stop in Kat’s amazing Market and say hello and pickup some great food.  Everyone there is very friendly and very helpful and I have found in my personal shopping experiences there that if you don’t see what you’re looking for that it can and will be ordered for you. Who could ask for anything better?






      So in conclusion, I reiterate what I previously proposed.  Design can be like that amazing meal that you cook from scratch; that meal that makes your home smell more amazing than it ever has before.  Food has the most amazing power to change your mind about almost anything.  It could even possibly change the world with the right ingredients.  I would say that Art and Design have the same potential to do the same.  So this is where I leave you all. I must get back to making dinner… I’m kinda hungry now. Lol


     I hope you’ve enjoyed this Home Grown Journey through this design project.

Until next time, friends,
Keep sketching, keep thinking, keep laughing and most important of all, 
keep making art.
Cheers,
LEWIS