Dog Rescue Gets A New Web Site

April 16, 2010

Dog Rescue

We’re happy to announce the launch of Frankie’s Furry Friends, a small dog rescue here in the Cincinnati area! Frankie’s Furry Friends is a dog rescue that helps small dogs find forever homes.

About the site: This site was built on the WordPress platform, which is an open-source Content Management System (CMS). A site built on such a platform allows the site’s owner(s) to maintain it with great ease. If you can use MS Word, you can use a CMS web site.

Also… once a year we will be taking on one pro bono project where we donate all of our design and branding time/expertise to an organization that we support. Our dog, Jake the border collie, is a rescue dog, and we are strong supporters of no-kill shelters and rescues in general. Frankie’s Furry Friends is 2010’s recipient of our time, design, and expertise. We couldn’t be happier for them.

It has been our pleasure and honor to contribute our time and expertise to Frankie’s Furry Friends. We know they will be a place where little doggies find forever homes. 🙂

Take a look and if you’re so inclined please consider adopting one of Frankie’s Furry Friends.


Talking about web design with the Glendale, Ohio Chamber of Commerce

March 30, 2010

A quick post this lovely spring day to say thanks to the Glendale (Ohio) Chamber of Commerce. I just returned from speaking about web design at the Chamber of Commerce’s bi-monthly training session (lunch & learn) about the “Basics of Web Site Design,” and had a great time.

What’s more, I was thrilled by all the engaging questions afterward! I love when a group of small business people get together and talk about design. I’ve yet to be in a group where the questions weren’t very specific, and the conversations afterward are always energized as well. I love being a small business guy.

No new dates are on the calendar just yet for a future speaking engagement, but when one comes up we’ll try and do a better job of making it known.



Website Refresher: Half Day Cafe

March 22, 2010

We are really happy to write that the little café that serves wonderful and interesting food here in Wyoming, Ohio has a refreshed website: Half Day Cafe.

Several months ago we began talking with Half Day Café about their goal to refresh their web presence, and since both our businesses operate from the Cincinnati area village of Wyoming, it seemed like a logical fit. For the past 2 years D&A Design has been taking clients to Half Day Café for meetings when we can, and so refreshing their website was a joy to do.

The new site includes a Contact box on every page, updated photography, imagery, and their new Sunday Brunch menu.

Go take a look at the site, and please also put Half Day Café on the radar to grab breakfast, brunch or lunch. You will thank us later 🙂

3 Big Picture Phases of a Web Site

March 15, 2010

I get 3 questions about web design more than any other: What is the process? How is a site maintained? and When is it time for a redesign? These questions sum up the 3 Big Picture phases of a web site’s life.

Here are my answers to the questions above about web design from a Big Picture point of view:

Phase 1. Design, Development, Deployment
The web Design phase consists of creating how it looks, Development is the code behind a good site, Deployment is when we officially launch the site.

Web design begins with fleshing out a concept for your business’ website. Through various rounds of revisions the sites user interface (UI) – the graphics that make navigating your site intuitive – become final, and once you’re satisfied with how it looks we focus more on Development, or how it operates. Development often has periods of silent time where the developer is working on code to make sure that the site is going to work perfectly once deployed. The code also plays into how the site is found by search engines. Once Design and Development are complete we sometimes launch a beta version of the site for live testing. After bugs have been worked out we encourage businesses to make a formal announcement through various media (traditional and social).

Keep in mind: Your branding partner or designer should either have a strategic partnership with development resources, or be able to do it themselves. Make sure this is covered in writing in your agreement. Know the costs for URL reservation, hosting, email, etc. before moving forward.

Phase 2. Maintenance: DIY or Tune-ups?
Free and open CMS resources like WordPress and Joomla allow business owners to update their content the DIY way. Some business owners prefer to contract their designer for regular website tune-ups such as quarterly or monthly updates to the site.

Before you head into a website design project you should talk with your designer about how the site will be built. If you want to maintain it yourself make sure your designer knows. If you want to leave maintenance to someone in-house or your designer, make sure they know that, too. There are cost-saving measures that can be taken advantage of no matter how you want to keep your site up to date. Point being, a site can no longer be deployed and left standing. It must be maintained, or it becomes stale.

Phase 3. Redesign: When Is It Time?
If your website was designed more than 3 years ago, there’s a good chance it’s due for a redesign. Aside from style changes to how sites are created, the back-end technology has changed too, and that is impacting how your site is being found via search engines.

A redesign is not starting over. There are myriad ways to refresh your site using existing branding. It’s like holding a box in your hands. You can look at it head-on for a while and after a while that perspective gets old and boring. Simply turn the box to a different angle and now your experience of the same box (your brand) is different, refreshing.

If any or all of these resonate with you, and you’d like to talk further about how any or all of these impact your specific business, we can set a time to talk.


Designed or Bought?

February 21, 2010

Just read a thought-provoking post over at LogoDesignLove about a topic that’s been a discussion among designers for years.

The question is simple:  “Are iconic logos designed, or bought?”

The answer seems to depend on what side of the table you’re on. When I talk to  fellow designers most will say that iconic logos – or any logo – are bought because a budget puts real value on what you’re designing, and a budget also gives a cap to when development time is complete. For instance, most seasoned designers have a process from creating many logos over the years, and this process has an average number of hours built in so as to realistically estimate the time needed to design a logo. Logos that are bought have a well-defined scope, a set time budget, and are most importantly a solution for business.

On the other side of the table are the business owners, the managers, the folks who are actually paying for the design work. They will often cite Nike as a good example of a simple logo that didn’t take hardly any time to develop, and is a household icon. It’s a point worth taking. Certainly genius can strike in minutes. And if there’s one thing designers whom are not also business owners tend to be vastly disconnected with, it’s the cash flow implications of their work for their clients. On the client side is also the correct expectation that a designer will work on a logo until it’s done to the client’s satisfaction – regardless of how many hours that takes.

So who is right?

I ask:  Why does it have to be “Designed or Bought”?

It must be both when we’re talking design.

Founder of the German Bauhaus school of design, an institution that changed everything, Mr. Walter Gropius said it best: “Art is self-expression; Design is problem-solving.” When we design, we are not creating pieces of art. By its very nature, Design is a creation process on behalf of someone or something else. Design is solving communication puzzles with aesthetics, not expressing how one feels about this or that.

I believe the premise of the question is wrong. Logos are not designed or bought, they are designed and bought.

If you want to express yourself, go paint. The world needs more painters anyway.

Cheers! ~ Dan

Google Buzz: New Marketing Portal?

February 10, 2010

Today I was given Google Maps 4.0.0 as an OTA update to my Moto Droid, and this version of Maps features Google’s Buzz functionality.

The best explanation and demonstration of Google Buzz that I’ve seen so far is on the blog Droid Life, of which I check in with every day (I’m a bit of a nerd about Droid).

For mobile users, Google Buzz on Google Maps allows Gmail users to share updates, photos, video and more by the tap of the screen. You can update where you’re at, what you want to say about where you’re at, and even include a photo or video. These geo-updates are visible to everyone, and anyone can make a comment or start a conversation thread with you about your post.

I spent tonight looking over the city of Cincinnati, noting that more and more status’ were being produced by the hour. Most users were posting about it being their first Buzz, the snow storm we’re in, or just saying hi. My first post was much the same – noting that the streets were somewhat clear, and included a photo with my post.

Google Buzz could be a flop. It might be the second coming of Google Wave, which while being very cool technology, no one seems to know how to put  it to use… real use.

I think Google Buzz has a lot of marketing potential. I can see a few things happening:

  • Businesses, such as restaurants or small retail shops, posting a sale or special coupon. Sort of like the text coupon – but more unique.
  • Consumers spreading the word much faster about a really great or really horrible experience. Can you see the little Buzz bubbles posted all around a mall or retail center talking about the rude clerk? I can. I can see his or her face, too, posted on Google Buzz.
  • News and happenings have yet another outlet for people on the scene to help tell the narrative.

This technology combines the things we love about Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, and email. It’s really remarkable.

D&A Design’s belief (and tag line) is “Your Brand Is Everything,” and Buzz is just another example of what we mean. Like it or not, Buzz is going to be part of a business’ brand because the people who interact with your business can now post about their experiences without a business’ knowledge. From a design and branding perspective, Buzz simply means that the value proposition a business is touting had better be exactly what is offered, from top to bottom, or else there will be posts. One could look at this as a negative thing, I choose to see it as accountability. Mostly, though, I see Buzz as a new marketing portal.

Go read what else Buzz has to offer, and if you feel so inclined, post what else you think Buzz could enable below in comments.


Dan Crask

A look under the hood

February 2, 2010

With last month’s launch of our sister company, Brand Shepherd™, completed we thought it would fun to post a little look under the hood of sorts… what’s going on around D&A Design.

How sweet it is! We have begun work on a brand identity and packaging for a line of raw honey and honey-related products. Show-and-tell should be ready in a month or so. Really enjoying the process, and learning all about beekeeping.

Who’s keeping score? Another consumer packaging design project is about halfway completed. Next week a photo shoot in Palm Springs, CA gets underway for this project. We can’t wait to get those images into the new packaging we have designed. This product is going to really pop off the shelf.

PR, Marketing, and… Advice? Yes! Go check out a site we just launched for Cincinnati-based PR firm, Marketplex. A small firm with loads of experience, Marketplex has a very useful service for small business owners:  Advisory Boards. Get in touch with owner Tom Besanceney – you’ll be fascinated by the process. We’re going to get some marketing initiatives started soon to let folks know about what’s going on with Marketplex.

35,000 reasons to visit Chillicothe, Ohio. In mid-January the 2010 Visitors Guide was printed for Chillicothe, Ohio… 35,000 of them! This year’s guide will really stand apart from other guides at Ohio travel pavilions. We visited a few pavilions to stare down the competition and see how we could make Chillicothe stand out. Mission accomplished.

The politics of design. This month D&A Design has begun working on our first entry into the world of politics by working with a local candidate on creating some well-branded materials. Love or hate him, Barak Obama changed branding in politics forever. A serious candidate can no longer go with whatever a design novice creates. Branding has power.

Sit, Ubu, sit. Good dog. How could we post a look under the hood without mentioning Dinovite?! We recently worked on a project where web banners were paired with streaming radio commercials. The banners take you to a landing page where you can learn all about Dinovite Liquid and/or get right to the buying. We continue to be blown away by how much Dinovite lets us design for them – they are great people to do great work for, and our D&A Design’s border collie, Jake, has benefited from their products for almost 2 years.

Lots of show-and-tell on the horizon. We feel that 2010 is literally the time, day by day, for the businesses who want to get serious about their image to do so and take advantage of vulnerable market share. The Great Recession may or may not be over, but there are big chunks for the taking for businesses with a well-honed image and message. Get in touch if you’d like talk with us about how we can help make that happen.