I’ve created graphics in celebration of Black History Month in the past. However, I wanted to do something different this year. I wanted to give some shine to African-American graphic designers that have made an impact on American culture. This design project also was my chance to learn about these designers I should know.
A simple Google search brought me to the Laughton Creatves website. Glenford Laughton wrote an outstanding, informative 2-part article highlighting 13 African-American graphic designers we should all know. It is from this list that I selected the featured designers for my design series. Laughton’s inspiration behind the blog post echoes my motivations for starting this series.
“While studying in the early 90’s we learnt of famous designers like Saul Bass, Milton Glaser, Paul Rand and more. Although these designers changed the way graphic design is seen, we did not see graphic designers from the African diaspora proudly presented and applauded. With that in mind let’s now celebrate *African American graphic designers who have left an indelible mark on the field. Let’s check out those who flourished in the face of racial adversity, fighting to have their artistic voice heard; who created their own companies and excelled as Black entrepreneurs at a time when this was unheard of, and those who continue to do so to this day.” – Glenford Laughton
My project, Black (Designer) History, involves me taking photos of each designer and creating an illustration based on their facial features. While designing, I record my screen using QuickTime so that I can include a timelapse in the video. In each video, I have the time lapse of my Adobe Illustrator work playing over a voiceover of me reading their bio. Whenever possible, I like to include some samples of their work and have those pop up on screen. Thus far, at the time of writing this, I have featured Charles Dawson, Sylvia Harris, and Art Sims.
I’m learning a lot through this project. As an African-American graphic designer myself, it is important to study and appreciate the masters of this craft that came before me. It is also important to highlight these great designers for more to become familiar with their impactful work. They each inspire me to maximize the potential of the space that I inhabit.
The year-long project involved a volunteer group called OklaX, made of over 200 people from PR and marketing backgrounds, Operative Brand Consulting (an Ontario, Canada based company), and over $250,000. According to the report by KFOR Oklahoma News 4:
The new logo is inspired by Oklahoma’s heritage. The different colors represent the earth, sky, water, agriculture, and forest. The star in the center represents our state’s original flag.
OklaX volunteer and new Director of State Branding, Amy Blackburn, said about the brand: “We really just wanted to make sure we were celebrating what Oklahoma is all about. In order to do that, we needed a diverse array of shapes and colors and we wanted to make sure we were creating Oklahoma as the hub of America”. Governor Kevin Stitt wrote, “If we don’t define Oklahoma’s brand, 49 other states will. It’s time we tell the nation our story, but it requires us to first hone in a simple, fresh brand for our state.”
So how did people react to that fresh brand? Some better than others. I didn’t even know this was happening until a designer I follow (Scott Allen Hill) on tweeted about it. I immediately searched “new Oklahoma logo” and was not disappointed. First of all, there were two main points that seemed to have folks riled up: Canadian company and $250,000+. I did question why they didn’t go with a local studio, designer, or firm to design the brand. However, without being involved in the process, it’s hard to speculate how that came about or how much sayso in the design the company had. As far as the $250,000+ price tag,…that’s actually cheap. You are rebranding an entire state! This is an absolutely massive undertaking to somehow put together a brand to present all of Oklahoma. States have spent much more than that. We just see the finished product without all the work that went into it. I’d personally love to see the Adobe Illustrator artboards on revision 46 of the logo and typography variations. It’s not just the logo but the brand language, marketing strategy, etc. The value of design, brand, and communication should never be understated. Everyone should be willing to invest in their identity and how they want to be represented. Now, some folks commented about how the money could have been used in other more appropriate ways. I’ll touch on that part of the reaction later but first…
I personally like the logo. It’s well designed and I like the different colors used. I dig the shapes around the negative space star, which represents the state’s original flag. Have I mentioned I love good negative space in design? The overall shape also works as a one color mark as well, which is important for versatility. The launch materials all look nice. The text “OKLAHOMA” is fine. It goes with the logo and has that extended K leg they seem to like in this state.
Unfortunately, a design unveiled with a star surrounded by multiple colors triggers comparisons to similar design ideas. People have wasted no time posting every rainbow circle logo they could find to showcase how they feel the new Oklahoma logo is “unoriginal” and “not worth the money”. There is one particularly yikes-inducing comparison with the UNI Financial Cooperation.
The “Imagine That” tagline is…um…ok? (Badoom-crash!) On first viewing, it felt lackluster to me but I get them wanting something short and flexible. Plus, I tend to reserve any lasting judgment until I see the brand in action. However, an interesting piece by The Last Ogle uncovered that, in the early to mid-1990s, the Oklahoma City Chamber of Commerce used it to recruit convention business. Coincidence? Maybe.
Brand vs. Logo
Your brand is what is said about you when you are no longer in the room. So here’s the thing about rebranding anything (a state, company, person, org, etc.): the external won’t cover up the internal. No visual brand alone will make you a “Top 10 State”. The rebrand has to be seen as part of a much larger effort to improve Oklahoma and not a frivolous fresh coat of paint on a car that still doesn’t run. Your visual brand identity is just the tip of the iceberg. So, I hope this is merely a piece of a much larger plan of action.
I’m an optimistic fellow. I hope this makes the impact the state officials hope that it does. Let’s see what they imagine (hehe) moving forward under this new brand umbrella.
In 2019, there were albums that made such an impact on me that I just had to design something for them. I’m an extremely happy person any time I can use my creative skills to celebrate things I enjoy. Last year, I did a Top 10 design series. This time, when I was putting together my list, I had to include 11 to properly capture my favorites of the year.
11. Lana Del Rey – Norman F***ing Rockwell I felt that going pop art-esque fit with overall vibe of Lana.
10. Wale – Wow…That’s Crazy This one inspired by the dark photo of Wale I found and the fact that it’s rumored this would be his last studio album possibly a la Jay-Z’s The Black Album.
9. Freddie Gibbs & Madlib – Bandana This one is pretty self explanatory haha.
8. Ari Lennox – Shea Butter Baby Designed a whole product label for this album! Little touches are present such as 12 oz (representing the 12 tracks).
7. Rapsody – Eve
What’s a queen without a crown? What’s an MC without a mic?
6. Big K.R.I.T. – K.R.I.T. IZ HERE
Took my illustration of K.R.I.T. and turned it into a full album cover with custom crowns above and below. “M” is also for Mississippi.
5. Beyonce – Homecoming The Live Album
Since Beyonce did a whole tribute to HBCUs (Historically Black Colleges & Universities) for her Coachella performance, I created a custom college seal for the occasion.
4. Snoh Aalegra – -Ugh, those feels again Kind of an old school illustrated scene of hot-air balloons of the yarn of love with tear drops. The track “Charleville 9200, Pt. II” was a major inspiration.
3. Lucky Daye – Painted Took the inspiration from the album title and ran with it. Love’s paintbrush with various colors – which also doubles as a musical staff.
2. Tyler, the Creator – IGOR Illustration of Tyler as IGOR prominently featured. I did illustrations for each track of this album I loved it so much.
1. Little Brother – May The Lord Watch My favorite album of the year! Illustrated the stars of the show and added some classic old school vinyl type text. Included a little nod to UBN. (“Youuuuuu are watching U-B-NNNNN!”)
Love projects like these! Hope you enjoyed my interpretations!
With the surprising demise of The Alliance of American Football, my plan of creating more logos (and videos) for potential AAF franchises was cancelled. However, from the ashes of that idea came a new idea that would explore the cross-section of sports and design in a creative way: the Fiction City Football League.
Fiction City Football League is a project that involved coming up with logos for 8 soccer (football) teams from 8 distinct fictional cities. Each of the cities selected happened to be from the DC Comics Universe. The Eastern Conference would be made of Gotham, Metropolis, Freeland, and Dakota City. The Western Conference would be made of Coast City, Central City (Heartland United), Star City, and National City. In a series of videos on my YouTube channel, my friend TJ Tooley and I discussed each city and potential design directions. But first, I had to come up with the concept for the league itself.
The FCFL Logo
The FCFL logo design process started with the soccer ball. I illustrated the soccer ball first. When illustrating something from real life, I like to analyze a live action photo to pull the essential elements from it. These elements may or may not include the shadows. The overall design was inspired by patches I’ve seen on various soccer kits throughout the world.
The FCFL text obviously had to be on there to identity the league. They are positioned in such a way where the “FC” is on top and the “FL” is on the bottom. They not only stand for FICTION CITY FOOTBALL LEAGUE but the FC on top represents FOOTBALL CLUB. It’s common to see “FC” at the end of many franchise names.
The 8 lines below represent the inaugural class of teams (4 Western, 4 Eastern). The colors were inspired by the logo I made for the Instagram account, Fiction City Logos. The Eastern & Western Conference logos pull from the symbolism of the main FCFL logo. I made a FC1 (“FICTION CITY ONE”) television channel logo for the FCFL broadcast deal. (I’m thorough when I want to be.)
With the main league branding established, the 8 teams could be named and the logos designed.
Gotham & Metropolis
Two of the most notable cities in all of comic books start off the FCFL journey. FC Gotham is inspired by the Art Deco vibe seen in adaptations like Batman: The Animated Series. The colors match the mood of Gotham City while the inside references the Batsignal itself.
The Mighty Metropolis is much brighter compared to Gotham, mirroring the difference in imagery between Superman and Batman. I used the outline of the Superman symbol on the inside and placed a soccer ball inside. The big M and the large, tall text MIGHTY speaks to the bold personality of the franchise.
Freeland & Dakota City
Freeland, home of Black Lightning, gains a franchise in the Freeland Pride. TJ mentioned the idea of the logo being a fist and I thought that was perfect to capture the heritage, pride, and power that the city would want represented in a football club. The shield of Freeland Pride consists of the raised fist, which has a negative space state of Georgia snuck in there, and a hidden F around the wrist.
Dakota City, home of the Dakotaverse of Milestone Media, got the mascot treatment. The Dakota City Football Club aka the Wolves’ logo is inspired by Wolverhampton Wanderers FC as well as the Inter Miami CF logos. The soccer ball replaced the snout in the illustration. The line between the ears not only represents the fur on a wolf but is a subtle reference to lightning and the Dakotaverse’s most popular character and hero, Static Shock. The “1993” at the bottom represents the year Milestone Media was founded.
The Heartland & The Coast
Central City was going to get a franchise but we wanted to avoid the obvious Flash connection. Also, geographically this club would have to represent a large area of the country. So, we decided to name the team Heartland United. My mind immediately went to corn fields so I created a laurel of sorts with the name and the soccer ball in the center.
Coast City, home of the Green Lantern Hal Jordan, used the waves of the ocean and the soccer ball itself as the center imagery. The name of the club hugs the center image with a Green Lantern symbol on each side.
Star & National
With Star City, we wanted to do something a little different and name the team Shining Star City. The logo plays with the star imagery as well as the bow & arrow. Being the home of the Green Arrow Oliver Queen means the Star City logo had to touch on that at some point. Overall, we wanted the name and the design to work together as a cohesive concept.
National City, home of Supergirl, immediately sounds very patriotic, hinted at by the use of red and blue as well as the stars. The wing in the center is a reference to flight, freedom, and Supergirl herself.
The FCFL was a fun project that stretched my imagination and allowed me to practice interpreting various things in a visual way. It was a worthwhile challenge creating brands for a league that uniquely spoke to each brand and worked together within the confines of a football league. I wonder what other cities or sports I’ll tackle next.
By definition, meditation is the act of engaging in contemplation or reflection. It’s a way to achieve calm and clarity. There are many classes and mobile apps surrounding the practice of meditation but I believe have the app idea that could surf over them all. I present to you the app that will allow your mind to go from rager to free – The Cudi App.
Kid Cudi hums are some of the best, if not THE best, in the business. Cudi has the unique ability to take your mind up, up, and away on the pursuit of happiness. It seemed like a pretty organic idea for Cudi to have a meditation app. It also seemed like a fun project to work on as a logo/brand designer such as myself.
We start as most projects start for me: in my sketchbook. Thinking about Kid Cudi, I immediately think about the letter C. This letter is important not just for “Cudi” but for his Cleveland hats with the C prominently featured. Cudi was born in Cleveland, Ohio so the C carries multiple meanings in the design. I played with various Cs using the grid paper in my composition book, trying to see what matched the frequency I was feeling for the project.
Another element I played with was the astronaut helmet. Cudi’s first two albums, the Man on the Moon series, his EP Satellite Flight: The Journey to Mother Moon, as well as other songs he’s released set the mood of space. I drew a simplified version of the space helmet with the goal of being able to put it inside the C. I wanted to play with negative space to complete the helmet image within. I also tried to sneak a K in the flare on the face of the helmet.
After the main logo was created, then the fun of creating mockups and fleshing out the brand identity I had in my dreams.
This is the latest example of me not allowing an idea to just stay in my head. Practicing and playing through graphic design, day and night, is a favorite pastime of mine. Also, as a fan of the Kid Cudi catalog, it was cool to see how I could interpret such an idea visually.
P.S. Extra points for knowing how many Kid Cudi song references I snuck into this post by design.
In high school, I was given a VHS tape with an assortment of band footage. The footage included some local high school bands and the North Carolina A&T State University Blue & Gold Marching Machine. This began my journey of buying, trading, collecting, selling, and even filming my own footage of marching bands. I had, and still have, a particular love of watching Historically Black College and University (HBCU) band footage from various schools across the country. I even joined a forum called Marching Central (which eventually became Showtime Magazine) in high school and became cool with fellow bandheads from all over.
One of those bandheads, Mailk, (who I’ve now known since the early 2000s…geez) reached out about branding his YouTube channel. He wanted his channel to deliver “raw, unadulterated footage” through a “retro style of filming” HBCU bands. With that bit of information he gave me and knowing his work and our history, my mind immediately went the VHS.
I explored other options but the VHS tape was the first and main centerpiece I wanted to work with. I drew the VHS and played with the center, which contains a musical staff (5 lines, 4 spaces). The musical staff worked well within the confines of the VHS tape. He wanted island colors so I used the eyedropper in Adobe Illustrator to take from an island/beach type scene.
Malik loved the tape idea and had the idea to combine with the valves I made. The valves references the instrument he played: the euphonium. I like adding touches like that in my designs. Designing with meaning is what I love to do. I made the valves come up from within the VHS tape and added a horn at the end but the horn was left in that round. When adding the valves to the tape, I wanted to give them some depth so I added the accents.
After that, it was just playing with the colors and the typography.
This was a fun project. It was double fun working with someone I know in a market I am quite familiar with. Be sure to watch, like, share, and subscribe to Lamik’s Videos on YouTube!
A monogram is a motif made by overlapping or combining two or more letters or other graphemes to form one symbol.
I describe a monogram as an (hopefully) epic fu-sion-ha of multiple letters within a creative mark, representing a person, place, or thing.
In this episode of Making A Mark, I am going to take you through my process of creating a monogram mark. The thing I am making this for is for my fantasy football team, the Stroll City Strivers. Now, I have already broken down my design of the brand of the Strivers in a previous video and blog post. But I’ve been thinking about adding a letter mark to the brand. I could possibly use the monogram as a faux “throwback” part of the brand. We’ll see. Let’s get started.
STEP 1: Analyze each letter. What makes each letter unique? How can you play with that? STEP 2: Take that intel and play with how you can combine the letters. STEP 3: Digitize the sketch. STEP 4: Profit. Present.
The Arizona Hotshots had the first logo I saw from the new batch. The overall concept is inspired by the standard fire department shield design you frequently see. The Hotshots feature illustrated pulaski axes crossing each other, surrounded by flames below. One of the things I truly appreciate about this design is the subtle “AZ” that you can see in between the axes at the top. As a designer, I love seeing little touches and references like that incorporated into designs. Meaning in design is very important.
The Salt Lake Stallions are bringing that horsepower with a very sharp stallion illustration. Continuing the trend of hidden letters, you can see the S in the design below the horse’s face. The mane, as is the overall illustration, is energetic and bold. This horse has an attitude and a confidence that speaks to what the Salt Lake team is trying to be about.
The San Antonio Commanders logo pulls from the history and a major landmark of the city. The iconic Alamo is depicted above the sword, which points upward and onward. The angle and the perspective make the sword active, as if that would be the way it would be held by someone commanding an army to battle. The Lone Star of Texas is placed below the sword. The entire concept looks like it could be a military patch. This is all very well done and comes together very nicely. It speaks to the location in an outstanding way.
The San Diego Fleet goes all the way in its Naval theme, from the design of the logo to the name of the franchise. The naval ship and the chevron are tributes to the Navy heritage in San Diego. The strength of the franchise is evident in how their brand is designed. The ship is coming at you, with its sharp edges, symmetrical construction, and light shadows.
According to the Fleet website:
“The colors and typography are unique to professional athletics, mirroring those of Navy ships and the signature San Diego sunshine and Battleship Gray.”
With all 8 of the teams’ names and logos now unveiled, my excitement for the first season of the Alliance of American Football is at the highest it has ever been. I love that the team brands don’t seem generic. The logos are professional and high caliber while also being unique, fun, and creative with meaning. Excellent job to everyone involved.
From the moment it was announced, I’ve been impressed with the rollout of the Alliance of American Football. The Alliance of American Football (AAF) is a new professional football league, that was announced this past Match, to premiere in February of 2019. Over the course of past few months, the AAF have unveiled coaches, player signings, and cities that will host teams. But recently they finally started to reveal what I’ve been waiting to see: team names and logos.
The first logo I saw was for the Orlando Apollos. First and foremost, I was pleasantly surprised that the mascot for the Orlando team wasn’t something generic. You could tell that thought went into it, as is demonstrated in the introduction video. The logo itself does a fantastic job in visually representing the story they are trying to tell with the franchise. The illustration of the marksmen is well done within the O. They describe the Apollo as the Greek god of sun and light, which fits for an Orlando, Florida based team. The color orange is typically associated with warmth, heat, sunshine, and enthusiasm so it fits well here. I’m also a big fan of the “precision marksman” pointing his arrow east.
The Birmingham Iron is a very strong name for a franchise. It’s also a uniquely appropriate name for a franchise in Birmingham, Alabama. Birmingham is the most populous city in Alabama and was nicknamed “The Pittsburgh of the South” because it served as a primary iron and steel industry center. The name, as well as the branding, speak to the history of the city and toughness the team wants to exude on the football field. The color black is often associated with power so the color scheme of black, steel grey and silver works well within the story of the brand. The iron football is an excellent illustration that uses the different shades of grey and some white to represent the iron material. The word IRON is strong and pronounced to really draw your attention to the kind of strength being shown in this mark.
The Atlanta Legends also decided to pull from their city’s history. Atlanta is and has been home to many legends in many different industries (in and out of the realm of sports). From the old gold crown with the football in the negative space to the choice of purple as a back drop, the Atlanta Legends have an outstandingly royal look to match their brand story.
The Memphis Express want you know that they are going places and fast. The story they want to tell is one of speed and breakthrough. The plane is breaking through the E, leaving a trail behind it. The letter E seems to be in movement as well. The entire mark is not only moving forward but upward in their goal of gridiron success. According to the Memphis Express page on the AAF website: “Under his leadership and that of GM Tim Lewis and Irby, the Express is all about the pairing of precision and urgency. Memphis moves swiftly, purposefully, determined to move forward, to raise the bar and earn respect every day.”
I am loving the AAF rollout for each team and so far the logos are all great. You can tell a lot of thought went into these and I am excited for the next stage: team jersey designs!
Here in the Northern Hemisphere, Fall does not arrive officially until September 22nd. However, one of fall’s greatest pastimes has returned to our lives: football. The college and professional football seasons have begun and I am very happy! Football, particularly college football, is my favorite sport to watch. On this episode of “Making A Mark”, I attempt to design a logo that represents to upcoming season of my favorite sport.