The Truth of Design in Netflix’s Abstract

Design is everywhere, even if you’re not fully aware. It’s there in the brand of coffee you get in the morning, the kind of car you drive, or the shoes you wear during your workout. They were all designed by someone. Netflix’s new compelling series, Abstract: The Art of Design, explores the world of design through various industries. Each episode covers a designer from their respective industry, from illustration and graphic design, to automotive and footwear design.

Being a graphic designer, I took a shortcut to episode six on graphic design, which follows Paula Scher and the world of typography. Learning about her adventurous career and the insights from her experience was inspiring. Here are some of the highlights.


“The design of the logo is not the hard part of the job. It’s persuading a million people to use it.”

This couldn’t be more true. I struggle with this part of the job every day. Even if you have the best idea in the world, you will always get challenged on your thinking. Part of being a designer is also being a salesperson. You have to sell your idea to the client and get them excited about it. Tell them your thinking, what your design communicates, and why it works. You must persuade them to trust your decision and help them understand your vision.



“You have to be in a state of play to design. If you’re not in a state of play, you can’t make anything.”

Do you ever find yourself trying to create something and you draw a blank? Like most things, you have to be in the mood to enjoy something, and creativity is no different. If you’re not enjoying the work or engaged in it, it’s almost impossible to be creative. Don’t waste time trying to force an idea. Take a step back and revisit it. Sometimes working on something fresh can bring on new ideas you wouldn’t have thought about. Switch up your surroundings. Even going for a drive around the city can help. Maybe a sign you always overlooked suddenly sparks an idea for an arrangement of typography.



“They want proof that this is really really going to work. The problem is, there isn’t proof. It’s how people see and perceive and accept things.”

Anytime you’re presenting a design to a client, they want a guarantee that it will work or make an impact. It makes sense. If you go to a store and buy a television, you expect it to work when you use it. Unfortunately, design is not black and white. There’s really no right or wrong answer, although there is good and bad design. Design is very subjective. Everyone perceives things in a different way. Some people will like a design, others will hate it. Many times you have to test ideas, knowing they might fail, to find the right solution. To be innovative, you have to be willing to take risks and push boundaries – or risk falling behind.



“Design needs to take human behaviour into account.”

User Experience plays a key role in creating a successful design. Everyone is different and won’t always react to or use a design the way it’s intended. When creating a website or app, will someone be able to navigate easily? Is the language you’re using easy to understand? Will they notice that button at the bottom? The best way to find these answers is to test out your design and ask a lot of questions. Don’t get thrown off by criticism, embrace it instead. Get them to find issues and poke holes. This will give you important data to fine tune and create something amazing.


My Moment of Inspiration

There was one quote in it all that was my clear favourite. I always think to myself, will I be still designing and creating, ten, twenty, thirty years from now? Will I get bored with design? What’s going to keep my creativity flowing? When I heard this line from Paula, it really helped answer those questions and provide me with inspiration for years to come.

“I’m driven by the hope that I haven’t made my best work yet.”



Design Resources We Love!

We know that designers are always on the prowl for the best design tools to help them get their work done. With Valentines Day coming up, we thought it would be the perfect time to highlight some faithful design resources we love. They may not be new to the web, but have always been the most helpful and efficient resources we’ve come across. After all when you find the “right one” you never let it go.


Niice screen design resourceNiice is a visual search engine made for designers. It allows you to search for inspiration across the web’s top design sources, such as Behance and Dribble. Easily search for inspiration on the main “stream” page or create customizable moodboards with the drag-and-drop interface. Moodboards can be shared and downloaded for team collaboration or used independently. Niice also features a Chrome extension so you can grab and save images as you browse the web.

Palette Creator

Palette Creator Design ResourceCreating a colour scheme with photography can be one of the most effective methods to ensure your design evokes the right emotion. It can also be one of the most time consuming. It can take hours of web browsing, downloading, and eye dropping. Palette Creator makes it fast and easy with its Chrome extension. Simply right-click the image, select the Palette Creator option, and choose the number of colours for your palette. Pick the colour mode you’re working in and save them to your clip board, or move on to another image. No commitment necessary.


Typography Design ResourceJeremiah Shoaf launched Typewolf back in 2013 because he was frustrated by the lack of useful resources available for typography. Typewolf identifies the fonts used in some of the most inspiring type-centric designs across the web, making it easier to pick beautiful font combinations for your own creations. Typewolf even provides useful guidelines and resources about typography to keep designers educated and inspired. It’s one of the most recognizable and useful typography related resources on the web.

These are just a few design resources we’ve come to trust, and as much as we love them we’ll always open our hearts up for more. So if you have any suggestions or recommendations about your own faithful design resources we’d love to hear about them!


The Anatomy of a Modern Sell Sheet

It’s no secret that we eat, sleep, and breathe digital marketing. But we’re also the first ones to say that a great sell sheet is an important part of your B2B toolkit.

Done right, this one-pager gets you noticed and gets them interested. The goal is to provide enough information to lead to a second conversation, but not so much detail that it becomes overwhelming or confusing. The last step is packaging the information in a stand-out, digestible design.

Let’s break down the elements of a killer sell sheet design using a recent example.


The product is the hero.

Invest in a high quality photo of it. Try a unique angle to add visual interest. In this example, the designer helped the product stand out by layering it over a faded intersection. The intersection adds depth and provides context for the setting the product is used in (1).

Focus on the key selling feature.

Often there is too much focus on the company logo or product name. But what your prospect actually cares about is the derived benefit. What problem are you solving for them? Did you just release the add-on feature they have been waiting for? The key selling feature should be a visual priority (2).

Organize information based on themes.

“Be succinct” is sell sheet 101. People tend to skim instead of read. Breaking up large blocks of text with headings and keeping content short and sweet is only half the battle. Instead of a lengthy bullet list of features and benefits, parcel it out into themes.

Let benefits shine in their own section with intuitive icons and bold statements (3). Highlight features in a separate area using a well-labelled visual for instant understanding (4).

Consider balance in your call-to-action.

While you don’t want to splash pushy CTAs all over your one-pager, you do want to be clear about how to get in touch. Round out the sell sheet with a benefit-focused CTA that provides a direct and easy way to follow up (5).


Daily Design Terrors

In the spirit of Halloween we thought it would be fun to compile a few daily design terrors that graphic designers run into more often than they should.


Cringe-Worthy Typography

Cringe-worthy typography is one of those nightmares we can’t escape. It creeps up on us everywhere: websites, brochures, newsletters, and flyers. Restaurant menus seem to be the place it haunts us most. White space or hierarchy often doesn’t exist and they’re jam-packed with cutesy system fonts stretched to fit “perfectly”. The prices aren’t what have us quivering, it’s the lack of alignment!


Coffee Shortage

“We’re out of coffee,” is already a horrifying thought to most, but watch out when a designer hears that. Add in a rush job for a client that needs to be done for EOD without a caffeine kick? Well… lets just say you might be seeing a real monster this Halloween before the sun goes down.


Ghost Files and Broken Links

We call them ghost files because you can see them, but they’re not really there. Either you’ve received a Microsoft file with embedded images or you’ve opened an InDesign file containing broken links. Regardless of the situation, you’ll be miserably digging through your computer’s graveyard of files.


The Spinning Wheel of Death

It strikes when you’re at your weakest. It threatens to erase the last 3 hours of unsaved work that’s due the next morning. Sometimes it leaves you unscathed and other times it finishes you with the “Adobe Illustrator has quit unexpectedly” alert. A harsh lesson we never seem to learn from…R.I.P. social life.

Tip: Save your file after every major change or edit.


Unnamed Layers

Working in someone else’s file can be a little scary and completely terrifying if it’s a cobweb of unnamed layers. Untangling the madness can be a lengthy process of trial and error.

Tip: Name your layers as you go. Use groups where it makes sense to (and name those too).


Vague and Unjustified Feedback

Gathering feedback is important, but it can be a lot like trick-or-treating. You’re not quite sure what will happen after you ring that door bell. You could be pleasantly surprised with helpful, constructive notes. Or you might fall through a trap door into a pit of critiques such as “make the logo bigger”, “doesn’t pop enough” or “Could you jazz it up a bit?”.  *Shudder*

Hint: Check out our “Why your Logo Doesn’t Need to be Bigger” blog.



Why your Logo Doesn’t Need to be Bigger

“Can you make the logo bigger?” is the most requested design edit that we receive and we understand that you take pride in your logo — and you should. After all, you have likely invested a lot into the creation and credibility it holds. No wonder you fear the thought of it being overlooked! However, your logo shouldn’t be the first thing people see. Let us explain why.

Your logo isn’t important, your message is

Your target audience is more interested in learning about your product and/or service and how they could benefit from it. This messaging takes priority over your logo and is what needs to catch and hold their attention. Your logo shouldn’t be more over powering than the headline or call to action. Instead, its purpose is to identify the company and the reputation it holds.

Your brand is not your logo

The recognition of your brand does not rest solely on your logo. There are other design elements that can be leveraged to ensure that your brand is recognizable. Take Apple for example; they are instantly recognized by their imagery, use of white space, typography and messaging. The logo is noticed last as a confirmation that you’re in the right place. This is the ultimate goal of good branding.

Bigger isn’t better

Take note of the clean and simplistic designs from some of the most successful and professional brands out there today such as Nike or IBM. Their logos are modest in size. People are naturally drawn to what’s attractive and easy to understand. Oversized logos, on the other hand, are aggressive and tacky; think of it as visually shouting at your consumers. While your logo is a valuable asset to your brand and overall marketing strategy, it is only a small component. Focus more on the overall visual communication of your design and the impact your product or service will have on your customer. Done correctly, this is what will make people returning customers, not your logo. We promise.


Easily Identify Web Fonts With Fount

Have you been looking at a website and wanted to know what fonts they’re using for headlines or body copy? One way to find out the font-family being used is to inspect the code. But sifting through code can be cumbersome and time-consuming, especially if you don’t know HTML or CSS. With Fount, you can easily identify web fonts on any site without the hassle of searching through code.

How Fount Works

Fount will quickly identify the web font you’re seeing, plus it will also show you the font size, weight, and style. To install this tool into your browser, you drag a button into your bookmark bar. When you want to identify a font, click the button to activate the tool and highlight the text. A small window will pop up that tell you about the font being used. It’s literally that simple.


One Small Suggestion

I find this tool very helpful, but I can’t help myself from making a suggestion when I think something could be even better. As a designer, a prefer to maximize my screen space while testing a website or searching for design inspiration, especially when I’m on a laptop. For that reason, I don’t tend to have my bookmark bar visible. Since the Fount button is used as a bookmark, I can’t access it unless I change my preferences every time I want to use it. It would be nice if the Fount button could be incorporated into the toolbar so that it’s always visible and easier to access (i.e. a Chrome extension).

Get Fount

I’m a huge fan of using tools that help me create websites. Fount is not only a time saver for me, but it also makes it super simple and convenient to identify web fonts without looking through code. Visit for full instructions on how to install and use Fount with your browser.

White Boy's underwear drying in the wind, on outdoor line string. Blue clear sky in the background, sunny day.

How to “Brief-in” your Graphic Designer

A design brief is a document used to understand a company’s challenges, values and objectives before designing a website, logo, or any other promotional marketing materials. It ensures both parties are on the same page and that the end result will exceed the client’s expectations. In a circumstance where your designer is in-house like ours, a long formal design brief can seem unnecessary. You might think the statement, “I’m giving you creative freedom to do what you want” is music to a designers’ ears, but we need at least some direction to get our gears turning. Here are a few topics to cover the next time you need to “brief-in” your designer, so they aren’t left feeling uncertain.

Design Brief

A Company Overview

Provide as much background information about the company as possible.

  • What does the company do?
  • What products or services do they sell and what problem do they solve?
  • What are their core values?

Tip: Links to a website and examples of past or present marketing materials can be helpful.

The Target Market

Give a few details on the audience the design needs to reach.

  • What age group does the design need to appeal to? (ex. millennials age 18 – 34)
  • Will it target men, women, or both?
  • What activities does the target market enjoy doing? (ex. being outdoors)

The Competition

Make a list of the competitors and/or similar businesses.

  • What are they doing in the marketplace?
  • What do you like or dislike about them?
  • How are you different?

Your Vision

It’s okay if your vision isn’t clear and you’re looking to the designer for direction. But, the more ideas and information, the better! A few ways to explain your vision could be:

  • Examples of similar designs you like or dislike
  • Providing imagery or illustrations that could be included or used as inspiration

Your Goal

Summarize what the overall goal of the design project is.

  • Is it to sell more products or services?
  • Develop brand awareness?
  • Increase website traffic?

The Mood to Convey

Explain what feeling or message the design needs to communicate. It may seem silly but this detail can make a big impact on the style, colours and fonts used by the designer.

  • Excitement or sadness?
  • Modern or traditional?
  • Elegant or bold?

Tip: If the brand is already established, provide branding guidelines for the designer to reference.

The Deliverables

If there are various deliverables, the same design will need to be carried throughout. Prepare your designer ahead of time to allow them to create a design that will translate successfully to different mediums or dimensions.

  • What social media platforms will it be used on? (ex. Social media platforms ad specifications vary in sizes)
  • Is this design specifically web-based, print, or both?
  • Will this brochure design need to translate into a poster?


Give your designer a detailed schedule of the project stages and set realistic deadlines for completion. Be sure to take into account the various stages of the design process such as concept development, production, revisions and delivery.


Create Professional Mockups Using Context For Illustrator

When presenting brand concepts to a client, it’s best to provide real-world visual examples to show how the branding can be applied. This gives the client a better understanding of your vision, and can really help the overall design process. The main problem designers face with visual mockups is that they take a lot of time. Context is a Mac application for Illustrator that allows you to make professional mockups in a fraction of the time.


How Does Context Work?

Once you’ve installed Context, you can access the built-in Surface Store where there is a wide variety of templates including packaging, outdoor signage, clothing, and even skin for tattoo mockups. Once you select your surface, open it up in Illustrator and simply apply your artwork to the template. With one click, Context will render you artwork in a live view window. This means you can make and visualize quick edits which makes the design process incredibly fluid and seamless. Context even warps and bends your artwork to the surface, giving your mockups that added professionalism.


Customize Your Surfaces

Live Inks is a feature that allows you to apply realistic swatch effects such as embossing, metallics, and other textures. This feature can bring your mockups to life by adding depth and different printing effects. After applying your artwork, Context allows you to make further tweaks by adjusting the lighting and even the perspective, which comes in really handy with package design. You can easily rotate and adjust the angle of a package to visualize your design in its entirety.


Highly Recommended

This tool has definitely been one of the most useful ones I’ve come across in a while. If you’ve had experience creating visual mockups for clients, you know it can take a lot of time, especially when you have multiple examples. Context makes it quick and easy to create and edit professional looking mockups without ever leaving Illustrator. For a small fee per month, this could be a real game-changer for designers who need to present their brand concepts to clients.

Download a trial and give it a shot!


Don’t Be Fooled by the “Fast & Easy” Design Tools Online

Last week Adobe launched a new software called Spark, making it easier for non-designers to create social graphics, web stories, and animated videos with no digital media experience needed. Similar websites have popped up over the years, such as Canva, BeFunky, and DesignMantic, and they’re all really handy tools. But we thought it was about time to bring the other side of the story to the table and break down the common misconceptions of using these tools instead of hiring a professional designer.

No Design Experience Needed

As Steve Jobs once said, “To design something really well, you have to ‘get it’. It takes a passionate commitment to really thoroughly understand something.” It’s more then just making something pretty; it’s about how it works. You wont find the same strategic attention to detail on an automated design website that a professional would provide. Designers play this game every day and know exactly how to use their knowledge and expertise to communicate an effective visual that ensures your company stands out from your competition and appeals to your target audience.

Saves Money

Like most things, it’s wiser to invest in a quality product upfront rather than upgrading later on and paying more money to do so. In the case of design templates, you will get what you pay for. Your visual brand deserves more then mediocrity! In the age of digital where trends are changing so quickly, you cannot afford to stand in the shadow of your competition. By investing in a graphic designer, you’ll have a trusted creative partner on your side to help you maintain a consistent look, brand your business in a unique way, and produce pieces that you can show off.

Saves Time

The to-do list of most entrepreneurs is usually pretty long and, let’s face it, most business owners do not have the time to complete DIY projects. Especially if you have limited design skills, this is something that is likely going to get pushed down the to-do list when priorities change. Hiring a designer will ensure your marketing projects are completed on time and opportunities are not missed. Not only are you sparing yourself a headache, but you’re allowing yourself to focus on what you do best.

Check out these design tools and see what they have to offer. But from where we’re standing on branding, the cons outweigh the pros… so why not leave it to one?


Create Amazing Product Visuals with KeyShot

Part of our culture at Stryve is the constant pursuit of knowledge and expansion of our skill sets. Recently I’ve been dabbling in the 3D world, creating renderings for new product prototypes with KeyShot. Thinking in a 3D space is much different than what I’m used to when being creative, so this has been fun and challenging. Instead of working with flat and simple shapes, you now have to think about depth, perspective, textures, lighting, and materials to make the object as life-like as possible.


KeyShot is Easy and Powerful

The software that I’ve been working with is called KeyShot. It’s a very intuitive and simple piece of software to use with a lot of creative firepower for 3D rendering. It allows you to create fast, accurate and amazing visuals for your product prototypes. What’s great about KeyShot is that you don’t have to be a rendering expert to create great 3D renderings. Simply import your 3D data such as an AutoCAD drawing or a 3D model from Maya, and assign colours and materials by dragging and dropping onto different sections of your model.

You can easily apply different lighting styles, including environment reflections so your model looks realistic with its assigned scenery. There are ton of different materials and textures to play with that really bring your product to life. Everything is updated in real-time, so when you change camera angles or apply a different texture you can instantly see how it looks. This is a great feature that avoids the need to render a model every time you want to see it in high quality. KeyShot also gives you the ability to animate your product. For example, if you have a product that has a lid, you can add motion to your rendering by having the lid open and close to demonstrate your product.


The Advantage of 3D

With the power of KeyShot, you can quickly and easily make life-like 3D renderings of your products. This allows you to get the perfect shot without having to do a photoshoot that can take hours setting up. What’s even better is that if you need to make any changes such as colour or material, you can reproduce the exact same scene over again which is next to impossible with traditional photography. This saves you a ton of time and money having to redo photoshoots or creating new physical products. It also gives you more flexibility when creating marketing materials and engaging photos for your websites.

If you’ve been interested in learning about 3D rendering, give KeyShot a try. They provide a great training area with in-depth videos on using the software so it’s really easy to get into.