The DL&A Blog Graphic design and marketing blog from Dennard Lacey & Associates <![CDATA[From Pixels to Paint]]> If you know me or have read my bio in the staff section of our website you know that I’m a fan of video games. But since having my first son four months ago I haven’t had time to partake in such frivolous time wasting. Although I don’t have much time to waste playing video games these days I do like to keep my eye out for interesting video game related news. Recently I saw an article which piqued my interest not only as a video game enthusiast but as a designer and artist. It was about an artist named James Barnett who takes a decidedly 21st century (and geeky) approach to painting landscapes.

Seeing as Barnett lives in the city, his opportunities to paint beautiful, unique landscapes are few and far between. So he fires up his favorite video game, wandering the virtual countryside searching for the perfect composition. Once found he takes brush to canvas in the style of the short-lived fauvist movement abstracting what was painstakingly constructed to look as real and gritty as possible into a beautifully colorful piece of modern art.

James Barnett is just one of many artist taking inspiration from video games and video game culture. Exhibitions of video game inspired art are on the rise and unlike their high-brow counterparts they’re actually fun. One exhibit titled Jab Strong Fierce, featuring art inspired by the Street Fighter series, brought in a DJ, a Street Fighter 4 tournament, and the obligatory costume contest. These exhibits are bringing in young crowds, prying them away from their controllers and hopefully planting the seed of appreciation for the arts.

If you can’t beat ’em, paint ’em!

image copyright © James Barnett

Mon, 08 Feb 2010 00:00:00 -0800
<![CDATA[The New DL&A Website, Powered by Dialogs]]> This website redesign has been a long and sometimes trying process. It’s never easy to design for yourself and pleasing four designers acting as a collective “yourself” is even harder (probably four times as hard if you think about it). The whole thing started with a simple request to update our existing site, improving SEO, adding blog functionality, links to our Twitter page and so forth. Well, you know its never that simple when a designer is involved and soon I was showing mock-ups of a complete redesign. After some light critiques and revisions I was off to the races, programing this new look. One of the main goals of this new site was to improve our presence on the web by optimizing it for search engines. Which beyond the usual meta tags, keywords, and h1’s meant updating content regularly. I went through several different configurations; a custom programed blog/news platform, an external blog platform, an integrated Wordpress blog...

After I finally had landed on what I thought was an ideal configuration and had everything functioning properly James showed it off to a friend...which didn’t go so well. It didn't look like a design firm’s website to her, which being that we are a design firm, was not a good thing. Time to redesign the redesign. At the time this was beyond frustrating but seeing what came as a result of this re-redesign I have no such complaints today.

The most important thing that happened in the re-redesign of our site was the decision to use a professional quality content management system, Dialogs. Before, we had considered the ability to update news and blogs to be the only CMS type functions we needed but once we talked to the Dialogs guys we were struck with update-itis. With Dialogs we could change anything and everything with ease (which might have lengthened the development time a bit). We can now update the portfolio, staff list, homepage feature image, navigation, news stories, blogs, every bit of copy on the site and even add pages all with ease and without HTML. But beyond all of this the best part was that, unlike other CMS’s I have worked with, Dialogs didn't have any say in what the design could or couldn’t be and on a few occasions it actually opened our eyes to some possibilities we hadn’t thought of. So, many thanks to Robert, Brett and the rest of the Kaleidoscope guys (the creators of Dialogs) for their help along the way.

This redesign has been a long time coming and we hope it proves to be a successful change. If you have any comments, compliments, or critiques please let us know in the comments below.

Tue, 22 Dec 2009 00:00:00 -0800
<![CDATA[Cold Calling]]> No one wants a call from a salesperson. All too often they end up calling at the most inconvenient time selling something that nobody needs. And they always sound a little too eager or at times even a little rude, making the person on the other side of the receiver wonder, “What the…?” We’ve all had calls from a salesperson during a movie, dinnertime or even during work, trying to sign us up for a service or a product we have never ever considered.

Well, I’m that guy. The fact is I don’t really want to talk to you either-I don’t feel good about taking up your time. But hey, it’s a necessary evil, like a commercial in the middle of your TV show (but a yummy one). If you are a marketing director somewhere, you need to know about the uber talent here at DL&A. Let’s face it, many of you are out there purchasing second-rate graphic design and marketing materials (for too much $$$) precisely because you have never heard of us. Of course, if you are fresh and in the know, then you are either using us, considering using us but can’t afford us (please exit this site now), or waiting to get a call from me. Maybe in the next few weeks, eh?

Whenever I’m freed up from the daily grind, I stroll into the business development office to do a dreaded round of cold calling. I start with an uneasy stare at the phone, and I clear my mind and picture a peaceful lake where bambi lives. I try not to think about the amount of hang-ups and the self-esteem smack down I will face that day. Instead, I focus on the positive outcomes: I will call company X, then they agree to meet and utilize our services, and they grow to be a titan of their industry. Everyone wants to pour me champagne—good call.

Mon, 21 Dec 2009 00:00:00 -0800
<![CDATA[Designing in the Real World (part 1)]]> When I was an advertising design major at the University of North Texas I had no idea of how my chosen profession would translate into the real world. I knew I wanted to be a graphic designer, but no idea of what that really entailed. I pictured myself designing CD covers, invitations, posters, logos — things that mirrored assigned projects at school. Little did I know that I’d be doing things I never dreamed of.

I graduated in 1989 at the tail-end of a recession. Jobs were sparse, but I got hired by Bob Dennard, of Dennard Creative. The firm was just beginning its work with Golden Corral, an aging, out-of-date food barn known for its generous buffet helpings and generously “seated” clientele. My first project was to create color renderings for buffet signage that would hang over the food bars -- not too far removed from what I thought I would be doing in school. At the same time, Bob and some of my coworkers were working on a new logo for the restaurant. Bob was also keeping busy designing the restaurant itself — but he was no architect. I thought it was rather curious that a graphic designer would be asked to visualize restaurant elevations. Bob drew up large renderings for both the interior and exterior of the building. The masculine exteriors closely resembled a massive ranch-style home — and the more feminine interiors featured kitchen-esque wallpapers, fabrics and colors — and objects you might find inside of that home. I helped Bob put together sample boards showing wall coverings, stains and textures.

It was during this project that I learned my first BIG lesson at Dennard Creative — we were marketers first, and then graphic designers. In school I’d spent my time cooking up design projects that I thought looked “cool”. “Cool” is only gonna get you so far, especially if you don’t know who your target audience is. For instance, the ranch-style house Bob had designed wouldn’t necessarily appeal to diners looking for a 5th Avenue experience. What market would Bob’s renderings appeal to? And what would make the visitor to the restaurant feel comfortable and at home? After all, the food itself is called “comfort” food, why not create an equally comfortable atmosphere? I was learning that as a graphic design professional it was our job to understand our audience at the get-go, and then focus on HOW to communicate the message. (to be continued)

Mon, 21 Dec 2009 00:00:00 -0800