San Francisco Card Deck

Branding, Cards, Design, Illustration, Packaging, Places, Print, Uncategorized

This year, my client gift was a custom deck of playing cards featuring landmarks from San Francisco, a fun personal tribute to the city I love and that so many also love to love.

I am no stranger to designing cards, having created a custom deck of poker cards for a charity poker tournament, as well as two card-based games for Google (Data Center Manager and Launch & Iterate). I love games, and also love designing for them, so deciding on a poker deck as a client gift seemed like the perfect pair.

I started back in the summer, thinking how to organize the face cards. There are a variety of options, such as by neighborhood, or by personalities (techie, hippie, by park, etc. I decided on buildings and landmarks because they had a pretty decent correlation by category for each set of 4 face cards and also had a certain amount of historical and intrinsic value to the people of San Francisco. But, as no option was perfect for capturing every aspect of the city’s culture, heritage and history, some icons didn’t make it, such as Dolores Park, AT&T Park, or the Presidio, to name a few that got cut from the long list.

What I did include were 3 categories of landmarks for each set of face cards.

Kings

SF Card Deck KingsKings were represented by famous tall buildings or towers: Sutro, TransAmerica, Coit and the Ferry Building clock tower. I think I chose them as Kings purely based on height.

Queens

SF Card Deck QueensQueens were some of the beloved bridges that are either in or connect to San Francisco: Bay Bridge both east and western spans, Golden Gate, and the slightly less famous but delightful bridge in the Japanese Tea Garden in Golden Gate Park. Perhaps I chose them for queens because they hold some of the real power in the city, as far as connecting us to our neighbors.

Jacks

SF Card Deck JacksJacks comprised of other famous tourist attractions including the Painted Ladies in Alamo Square, Alcatraz Island, Lombard Street, and the Palace of Fine Arts, which coincidentally happened to celebrate its 100th birthday this year.

SF Card Deck 2Of course, the real character of the cards lies in the Joker, whom I aptly chose our dear Emperor Norton to fill the role of. It seemed all too appropriate. (Don’t know who he is? Check out the wikipedia page).

SF Card Deck 3

The final consideration for the cards was the color palette, which is very limited. These colors are the ones I’ve chosen for my personal branding, but it’s not a huge coincidence that the cadmium red (not quite international orange, but certainly in the spirit) and sea green are in play for this San Francisco-based designer.

SF Card Deck 1

Want a deck of your own? Email me, and I can mail you a pack ($20+shipping). While supplies last.

SF Card Deck 4

Family Greetings in Retro Travel Postcard Style

Cards, Design, Illustration, New Piece, Print

Day Care Project final web

I worked on a project recently that was a lot of fun. A mother whose child attends a small daycare center wanted to pull together a unique thank you gift for the class’s teachers. She found a board she really liked on Etsy, and thought it would be fun to have pictures of the families to pin onto it. We got to talking and the idea expanded to be not just family photos, but vintage inspired travel postcard themed cards with a greeting of their choice on it. Each family had a fun story or background that we could highlight, so I whipped up a textured template (working with a limited palette that went well with the board she’d found) and I made a bunch of fun graphics to include on each family’s card. I also aged the photos a bit to make them fit in with the retro style a bit more.

Day Care Photos Lutz

Father came from Hawaii, and they love to surf!

They love to be outdoors, especially their garden.

They love to be outdoors, especially their garden.

Mom is from Trinidad and Father is from Norway, so they can never decide between skiing and surfing.

Mom is from Trinidad and Father is from Norway, so they can never decide between skiing and surfing.

Parents are from Taiwan and New Jersey - their love met in the middle. Can't forget the dog!

Parents are from Taiwan and New Jersey – their love met in the middle. They love biking and hiking, too.

All their love, from Switzerland.

All their love, from Switzerland.

We have a rivalry on our hands! Also, can't forget the dog.

We have a rivalry on our hands! Also, can’t forget the dog.

Both parents are basically professional dancers, both ballroom and swing.

Both parents are basically professional dancers, both ballroom and swing.

Can't forget the Frozen fans. (image blurred by family's request).

Can’t forget the Frozen fans. (image blurred by family’s request).

A very fun, personalized gift for the teachers. They loved it so much they plan on keeping it in the classroom even after the current class has moved on.

It was a lot of fun coming up with graphics for each family and having it work with the theme. I liked the color palette a lot, too. Would be fun to make more graphics like this.

Oh, here’s the backside, where the family’s wrote their personalized messages. Complete with custom stamp and post office marker.

Print

New Series of Watercolor Paintings

New Piece, Painting, Places

Over the summer, I completed a series of watercolors, the second time I’ve done so for the Sereno Group annual calendar. The images are of points of interest in the South San Francisco Bay, Peninsula, and Santa Cruz Coastal areas, and they will be featured in the 2015 calendar.

It was fun, as painting always is. I enjoyed working on the sunset image over the Baylands park, as making smooth gradients in gauche can be tricky but rewarding. I also really enjoyed painting the ship that sits at the dock in Capitola State Beach, as the colors of the rusty ship were really vibrant and contrasted beautifully against the bright teal water. I also haven’t played much with painting waves, and was happy with how they turned out.

I’d be happy to pass along any extra copies of the calendar that I get if you’d like a copy. Send me an email or leave a note in the comments if you would.

Originals are also for sale. Final sizes are roughly 8-1/2×11 inches.

Blocks Themed Birth Announcement

Cards, Illustration, New Piece, Print

Luke Announcements

Just finished the second in a series of birth announcements for my client (isn’t that the nicest way to say I’m making the announcement card for their second child, too?). Last time, we went with the owl theme in their nursery which I made into a little pop-up card. This time, I decided to do blocks, the ubiquitous childhood theme (that I adored oh so much as a child). I used some bright and warm colors, and found this amazing wood grain cardstock that added a wonderful texture to the block shapes. Putting my wonderful die cutting machine to work once again, I pieced together this new card on a light striped cream colored background that labeled what age each photo was taken at.

New Year’s Party Invite Website

Design, Invitations, New Piece, Uncategorized, Web Design

SerenoNewYearParty Screen Cap 1

I have another Hype* creation to share. This project was a party invitation where I had the simple task of getting the attendees information about when and where, as well as collect RSVPs from everyone. Click here to see full site.

Firstly, I chose a photo from the Sharon Heights website that I found to be rather appealing (I’m always attracted to the evening/dusk color palette). It also complemented the company’s branding with the warm ochre hues and dark green lawn. Even the blue of the sky was pretty close to the blue that’s in the branding guidelines, and since this was a January party, I thought that it’s cool tones would work best as the main body color.

I wanted the most important info to be prominent: Title, Date, and Time followed in importance by the Location/Directions, then the body text adding description to the event. I wanted it to be easy for visitors to understand where to go to rsvp, add the event to their calendar, and also the option to stay at a nearby hotel that had reserved a block of rooms, so those 3 call-to-actions I made look like buttons in the bottom right of the page.

CalPopUp

While clicking the “Calendar” button would float up 3 options for downloading the event to their calendar of choice (Outlook, Google, and iCal), and the “Stay” button would open in a new tab the custom website that the hotel put together for the attendees to reserve rooms, clicking the “RSVP” button would take the visitor to a second page that has an embedded google form (minimally styled), that they could submit their RSVP. Additionally, clicking on the map image would also take the visitor to the google maps page with proper instructions leading them to the site from their current location.

SerenoNewYearParty Screen Cap 2

The thing that people really loved though, was the snowflakes. This took a little trial and error to get right. Initially I had created the graphic for the static poster image that would go up in the offices, so when it came time to translate to a motion graphic, I had to deconstruct the pattern so that it flowed as an animation.

Snowflakes_Static

This is the base pattern I created on the static image

In order to convert this image into a flowing, seamless pattern, I set up 3 layers of animations: slow, medium, and fast. Pulling apart the original pattern, for the slow animation, the I made a relatively compact version of the design that was only slightly taller than the height of the canvas. Medium was a looser pattern, and approximately 1.5 the height of the canvas. Fast was much looser and about 2x the height.

Snowflakes_How

When pulling those images into Hype, I stacked them on top of each other, and placed their starting and ending points so their bottoms were more or less aligned. Giving them 10 seconds to float down, I left them to be more or less aligned by their top boundaries (after getting them generally aligned this way, I did have to tweak the positioning a bit so that the pattern for each was seamless on the repeat).  Because of the different heights of the original images (which, btw, are transparent pngs), setting them to the same time, the appearance of some snow falling faster than others is achieved.

snow transitions 2

Issues

So the only problem I had with the project was with the embedded google form. Most people were able to submit their RSVP directly on the site, but a few people who used the site on their mobile device were unable to scroll down to click submit. I inserted a work-around by making the rsvp button on the second page a direct link to the proper google form (non-embedded, which google has clearly made mobile friendly), but it was a hack and I would obviously not let that be an issue if I did this again. There is probably a javascript behavior I could implement that would make the form more accessible on mobile, but the easier and simpler option would be to have the form not fall into an iframe – just have the dimension of the original canvas be large enough to hold the form without needing to scroll. Another testament to how important testing on mobile is when designing anything for web nowadays. 

* Just a reminder to anyone who doesn’t know, Hype is basically the HTML5 equivalent to Flash, therefore, the site/animations are visible on iOS devices.

Where’s the Beef?

Design, Interests, Invitations, Packaging

beef1

It’s been a couple years ago now since I made this invitation, well before I started blogging about  my favorite projects, but I was going through some old stuff and realized this one was probably one worth sharing (not to mention writing down at some point so I don’t forget what went into it either).

Back in 2010, I co-hosted a beef tasting party. The idea being that I really had no idea what the difference between some very basic cuts of meat were, and while the idea of sitting down to a 12 course meal of side-by-side beef tasting sounds entertaining, it was simply going to be just too much meat for one person. SO…. why not throw a party?!

beef3Designing the invitations was an amazingly fun process. I spent a lot of time researching beef and what the different cuts were, as well as where on the cow they came from. I wanted to share a little of that knowledge with my invitees, hoping to entice them to participate in the experiment.

I made the invite itself into the shape of a cow, and cut 3 overlapping sections out of it to give the information what, when and where. I then included a vellum overlay with the cross section of the cow (I have a weakness for science diagrams – couldn’t resist).

For the envelope, I wrapped the invite into a piece of butcher paper, a kin to how apiece of meat from the butcher would be wrapped. I then created an address label that mimicked the pricing sticker that you get at the store, indicating weight, price per pound, sell by date (in this case, RSVP by date) and the barcode (which sneakily included the numbers of the date of the actual party), which then sealed the envelope shut.

BeefInvite-annonymous

MeatLabel

I also made a custom USDA seal of approval on each envelope, indicating it would be a swell party, as well as a return address sticker that had the “brand” from the “ranch” the meat came from. The one failing point of the project was that there were no beef-themed stamps available at the time I sent these out, so wasn’t able to complete the them as entirely as I’d hoped.

The party was a hit, I was able to enlighten myself, and a handful of friends about the different options we have for ordering and enjoying beef. I will admit, and I’m not ashamed to, this is probably the first of many parties I will host where the idea of how to design the invite was a strong driving force to make it happen versus just think about how cool it would be to do.

So anyway, I learned a lot about beef. All the research leading up to the day was more educational than just doing the tastings. I am happy to share a little bit about what I still remember (with the quick caveat that I am definitely not an expert, and if I got anything wrong, I’m happy to be corrected):

First off, there are 3 categories to grade the beef sold in the US: PrimeSelect, and Choice. They rate, in descending order, the quality and marbling (the fat:muscle ratio) of the meat. We aimed to get as many prime cuts as possible for our tasting, which we found to be somewhat difficult. Even Whole Foods carried mostly Select cuts. We ended up going to Los Gatos Meats (a disaster of a website, but a gem of a brick & mortar) for most of the meats. Also, to keep the playing field constant across the different cuts, I tried cooking them all with as simple a preparation as possible, allowing the flavor of the meat to be the only thing we were judging the taste by.

Now, where on the cow do the cuts come from? For this, I made a little cheat-sheet that outlines where a variety of the cuts come from on a cow. (Mind you, in Britain, they have very different terminology for all of this, so this is all American beef knowledge I’m dishing out.)

WheresTheBeef

So, I didn’t want to have a party with 50 cuts of meat, but did want to have a sampling from “all parts” of the cow. We didn’t get too crazy either – no organs or “non-standard” cuts were investigated; remember, we were hoping to understand our options when looking at a typical menu of meat options at a steak house.

For the tasting, we grouped the cuts into rounds of tastings based on which part of the cow they came from. We started on what are considered the cheaper cuts, and worked our way up, to what are generally considered the more expensive, highly desired cuts.

Kowal_LogoKowal_LogoFlank & Skirt Steak. This meat comes from the end of the ribs, called the flank or plate. It has a strong grain and should be scored and marinated for a while to be tenderized. This is your standard fajita or steak salad meat, and should be cut against the grain, or else you’ll be chewing it for a while. I did marinate these in some soy sause and brown sugar before broiling. The flank is typically thicker than the skirt, so cooks a little bit longer.

Kowal_LogoTri-Tip: The little triangle at the bottom of the sirloin diagram is basically where the tri-tip steak comes from, which is the piece we elected to try from this portion of the cow. Back in the day it was typically made into ground beef, but at some point, someone figured out that you could cook it low and slow and slice it thin for a low-fat steak option. I remembered having it as a kid smothered in barbecue sauce and sandwiched between french bread. I think for our party, we just did a dry rub and I seared and then baked it until it was medium rare.

Kowal_LogoPorterhouse: We’re moving into the short loin now. This is where you start seeing real steak names come into play. What is the difference between a Porterhouse and a New York strip?  Well, I’ll tell you. The porterhouse is your “t-bone,” the ubiquitous caricature for what steak looks like. You have a large cut of tenderloin on one side , and the other side of the bone is strip steak. Technically, a porterhouse is classified by having more tenderloin than even a typical “t-bone” but they’re hailing from the same part of the cow, so same cut of meat.

Bone-in New York: This is what is on one side of the porterhouse – the strip. It’s a muscle that is infrequently used on the cow, so still tender. It can be cooked bone-in, or cut away from the bone. We went with the bone-in option because we were told that those typically cook better because they retain the juices. No argument here.

Tenderloin: The tenderloin is a long a narrow piece that follows inside the spine and is very tender because it is not a used muscle. We took the more famous cut from there, the filet mignon. A medallion, sometimes wrapped in bacon, that is so soft you could sometimes cut it with a butter knife. We actually got a little extra experimental here and got one regular corn-fed cut, and another grass-fed to see if we could notice a difference. (the answer is yes).


Kowal_LogoShort ribs: These are typically braised. The cut is from the rib and surrounding meat, and they are cut into ~2″ chunks. You could also get them cut Korean-style, which is a much smaller slice and then it’s just marinated and grilled. We opted to try them the “old fashioned” Western way for our taste-test. After being braised, the meat is very tender and literally falls off the bone. It also really soaks up the flavors of whatever you braise it in, so the flavor of the meat is not typically standing on its own.

Bone-in Ribeye: This is the meat inside the rib bones, and unlike tenderloin, gets a fair bit of exercise in the cow, so is supposedly more flavorful. We went for the bone-in option again, like with the New York strip, but can also be cooked without the bone.

Prime Rib: This is essentially the same part of the cow as the ribeye, but cooked as a roast, with anywhere from 2-7 ribs wide. The main difference between the two cuts is how they’re cooked, and also a lot more fat has been removed from the ribeye than the roast.

That’s what we tried. I had my opinions, of course, on what the best pieces were. I made a form people could fill out as they tried everything so we could keep track of the different aspects of each kind of cut.

WheresTheBeef-SteakRater

Hopefully this was mildly informative. I look forward to the next food-themed party and invitation design. Also, the first photo in the post is credited to Carol Le, a terrific friend and photographer.

Texas Hold Em Poker Tournament Custom Card Deck

New Piece, Print

Every year the company I work at hosts a Poker Tournament Fundraiser for Relay For Life (American Cancer Society). A couple years ago, I made a poster for the event and designed a face card with the President/CEO’s face on the card and it was a huge hit. I had been considering making a whole deck of cards with faces of other people from office since, but never quite got my act together to put it together. This was the year it was going to happen though, even in true last minute fashion (isn’t there an expression that great things only get done when you don’t have enough time to do them in?).

The face cards are all of people whose faces most people who work there would recognize. The President and co-founders got the King cards, and the Jacks and Queens are VPs, with one exception being the Queen of Clubs who gets a spot as the official cheerleader for the Relay for Life event, as she’s very active in organizing events and getting people on board to donate. I modeled the cards after the classic “Bicycle” format, and used the colors of the company’s branding. I used the font “Helldorado” to get that western look with the typography.

Getting the cards to coordinate upside down and right-side-up and look the same was a fun challenge. I was more brazen with some designs than others, but overall was pleased with each of the designs. In the interest of sharing the joke with you, since you probably don’t know what these people look like, I’ve done a couple side-by-side comparisons so you can see where I drew the characters from. All of these were designed in Illustrator, and I more or less traced the faces with a .5 stroke to start, and once I was satisfied that I had included just enough detail, I finished off the designs with the neck/shoulders/patterns. I spent roughly 1 hour on each face card design (some more, some less). Most of the images I was able to pull from just 1 photo, but there were a couple that I pieced together from multiple photos to get the right look.

If you are very interested, I’ve posted the full pdf with all the final artwork for a full res viewing experience.

I was super happy with the vendor I chose to print these. There is such a smattering of custom playing card design/printing companies available on the web and I didn’t have much to go on, so was glad the gamble paid off when I decided to use them. How I got past their really terrible 1.0 website is beyond me, but again, they were great, so withhold judgment on the site.

For the record, the event these were made for was a huge success, and I believe raised nearly (or over) $7,000 towards this year’s Relay for Life Fundraiser.