Month : June 2011

playing catch up!

I’ll be back soon – just getting caught up at work and at home after spending four glorious graphic design-filled days in the windy city, full of inspiration, fun, energy, new ideas, pushing comfort zones, taking some chances, and of course, lots of good food and shopping breaks! Many stories to tell…just need to get some laundry done and emails answered first! 😉

the smith review: barefoot training shoes


In my running and shin splint endeavors, I have been reading up on the benefits of barefoot running – the idea that you can naturally retrain the way you run and avoid injury by running either barefoot or in a next-to-nothing shoes that makes you feel as if you’re barefoot. I ruled it out as an option for me, but upon researching, I learned more about the Vibram Five Fingers and Page and I both recently tried some on to see what the big fuss was about.

True to their name, you do feel barefoot when you wear them (well, maybe like you have socks on is more accurate). I can see where someone would like the sensation of being able to feel everything under your feet. Plus it’s sort of liberating to be able to move each toe independently. I need more shock absorption than the sturdiest of styles can provide, but if you aren’t prone to shin pain, or you can use them to re-train your running gait, then I can see how you might love them for running.Page had noticed that several of the guys in the weight portion of our gym were using a barefoot trainer when lifting. He ended up buying a pair of the Vibrams shown above and loves his – although, granted, he can’t run in them either. There are several types these have the most developed sole and lots of tread compared to other styles – designed for cross training. He uses his for lower impact workouts and has found they work well for biking, as they’re much less bulky than riding in a traditional running shoe.

For me, I had seen the yoga-geared style in class before. I personally prefer to be barefoot in yoga – although I bet they’re very helpful at preventing slipping and sliding on your mat when you’re extra sweaty! I was intrigued by the fact that barefoot shoes were originally created to be water shoes and considered a style designed for running laps in the pool – one of my new favorite workouts.

In the end, I wasn’t sure I loved the fit, and for as infrequently as I’d use mine, I didn’t want to spend the cash for the brand. I ended up buying a more generic brand of strictly water shoes (a sort of Mary Jane style – no weird toe separation sensation) to run my pool laps in.

So there you have it – barefoot trainers, a bit demystified. 🙂 Anyone else run or work out in barefoot shoes? What do you use them for?

reality check.

As we start looking at some homes in the coming months, we are trying to stay very realistic and reasonable about our list of “must haves”. We completely get that there will be no PERFECT house with EVERYTHING on our wish list. But, there are a couple of non-negotiables. And if we find a to-die-for house that doesn’t have one of our must-haves, it should at least have the ability to add it/renovate it/ build it – somewhat reasonably. 🙂

We’re totally excited to get into some DIY projects as well, and we completely expect not to get all of the things on our list. Whichever don’t come with the house, will be at the top of our project to-dos.

Here’s our (oh-so-reasonable, right?) list:


  • finished or partially finished basement
  • 3 or more bedrooms
  • 2 or more bathrooms
  • 2 or more garage stalls
  • kitchen pantry – or “extra” kitchen storage space

Would be nice to have…

  • 4th bedroom or office/loft space
  • laundry on main or upper level
  • 3rd garage stall or extra drive space for 3rd car
  • updated kitchen (new/er appliances, granite/aggregate countertops)
  • deck as opposed to patio
  • fenced-in yard
  • non-Oak finishes (darker wood or white finish)
  • hardwood floors


logo love: megan clausen photography

Introducing the new look of Megan Clausen Photography of West Des Moines, Iowa!

My friend, Megan, is an amazing and talented photographer (and all around artist and person!) who was looking to hone in on the essence of her brand and get it captured in a logo and some styling she could apply to other collateral materials. I have to say, this was a bit easier to do than with other clients, because I already knew her. When I think of Megan, I think of colors, beautiful doodly handwriting, optimism, extreme creativity, and a bright and sunny personality. Yes, the logo is about her business, but her business is built on HER and HER WORK, so it made sense that the branding reflect Miss Megan, herself.

Super creative, she gave me an idea of some color combinations to try and sent me the files to a couple of fonts she wanted to play with. She even doodled a few things in a notebook for me to look at. The evolution of a look is always fascinating to me – and the journey of the Megan Clausen Photography logo was no different! Let’s take a look at the process…

Sometimes you just need someone to give you some ideas to start from, and then you can figure out what you’re looking for. It’s hard to know what you like until you see something that you don’t…or you see something you DO like, but want to try it in a new way. Such was the case here. I sent Megan these initial jumping-off points, and asked her to think about a tagline – how she would describe her business, her photography style, her clientele.

The simple camera doodle and the shutter were both a “yes” and she sent me a couple of fonts she wanted to try. It was at this point that Megan shared that she might like to incorporate a play on a rainbow of colors – as in the photography industry (and others I would assume) displaying the color wheel is a signal to GLBT potential clients that you are available for business. It wasn’t essential to Megan, as she said she could find other ways to work that message in through her materials, but it was another idea/direction to think about as we moved forward.

Ooh we were starting to get close. (Or so we thought!) We narrowed down quite a bit from the above options, and tweaked the hues to her preferred shades of green, blue, etc. To play off the handwriting fonts, I tried adding a sketchier edging to the shutter pieces…

It was at this point, we thought we had it. There would be a couple “versions” (depending on if she needed a more square, or more rectangular application) but overall, we were there! Then, Megan shared the logo with a friend, who immediately said… “wow, that looks a lot like the Picasa logo…” Augh! This had never occurred to EITHER of us, but sure enough, we checked it against the Picasa logo (Google’s photo editing software company) and sure enough, it was AWFULLY similar. Just a little close for comfort, and we certainly didn’t want people to think we had tried to copy it!

On the flipside, I certainly didn’t feel like Picasa owned the idea of a shutter altogether – hello, it’s the essence of a camera! So I tried some variations….

Finally, we sat down together, and played with new color combinations for the shutter. Red and blue, red and white. orange and turquoise. After a while, no matter WHICH colors we used, it continued to look like a life preserver. We decided that it was the full color spectrum that made the shutter effect so cool, so we abandoned it altogether. And lonnnnng story short, we went in an entirely different direction, inspired by one of Megan’s many doodles, and here you have it folks! TA DA!!!

It officially passes my own little test of a good logo, (she can use just the little red element if need be, or use a version without her tagline and only the biz name), and after we both spent a lot of time picking at the final layout, we were both in love with the final product. I’m very happy from a design standpoint, and she’s happy because it’s HER – the true measure of success!

This won’t be the last you’ll hear me speak of Megan…I’m anxiously awaiting a photo session with her in August and will have amazing pictures to share!

pin, pin, baby.

Please excuse the Vanilla Ice reference, but when I’m giddy I tend to do weird things.

And the new thing that’s making me giddy? Pinterest!

I had heard of it several times before, and had even been invited once or twice, but I just didn’t quite “get” why I needed to partake.

Then my ever-the-hipster bestie convinced me I needed to get in on the action. She had created boards and was going on and on about how fun it was. If Lu is doing it, it MUST be fun. 🙂

In the past I’ve bookmarked things on blogs…but the downside is if I get on a different computer, I no longer have the bookmark saved. I’d also tried saving images of things I liked to a folder on my hard drive, but then when I later want to blog about them, I have no link or source to reference. Pinterest lets you save fun images from blogs and other websites, and also bookmarks HOW you found them. You can create as many “boards” as you like – for now I only have a handful – for the house, for general inspired things, for graphic design, etc. As others “follow” you or you “follow” them, you can re-pin things that others have found. It’s an amazing source of inspiration for just about any topic you can think of. It’s only a few weeks later and I’m totally addicted. It might top facebook in terms of how much time I can waste spend online!

Check out my boards, and if you have some of your own, comment with a link! I’m always on the hunt for new pinners to follow! 🙂

Happy Father’s Day!

When I recently stumbled upon this Bill Cosby quote, I had to whip up a couple of Father’s Day cards to include it.

Page and I couldn’t ask for better fathers and father-in-laws! We love you both for so many reasons – your energy, your optimism, your encouragement, your advice, and your humor just to name a few. Hugs to you both – enjoy your day!

what makes a “good” logo?

I recently came across the above logo example, and it was a perfect complement to a post I’ve been writing in my head for a while. Above is a logo designed by Malcolm Grear Designers, for their client, Veterans Memorial Auditorium.

For you design geeks out there, I’m certainly not telling you anything you don’t know. But if you’re even thinking about starting a business and, like most shoestring budget entrepreneurs, are thinking of designing yourself a logo, let me give you a couple of tips to build maximum strength and impact into your company’s visual signature. After all, you want to come up with something you love now and will love for many years to come as you build your brand, and you want it to work for you and reach your customers, even when you aren’t there.

There are many out there who can speak volumes more about this than I can, but to me, in my own experience, a logo should be two things:

#1. A logo should be CLEAN. (Note: This does NOT mean boring.)

A logo is just that – a logo. Not a whole brochure of everything about you and what you do. It doesn’t have to say and show everything that you might mention in your company’s elevator pitch. Use an image that relates to your industry, or a totally abstract one that is unique and all your own, but keep it simple, include the name, or the first letter of the company – whatever works for you. Even include a tagline that you can use in certain applications, and leave off on others. For example, a wordy tagline like, “Showing you how much we care” might look great under the logo on your letterhead, or better yet, on a billboard where space and scope is abundant. But try and wrap all that text AND the logo image around a skinny Bic pen, and it will be wayyyy too much (not to mention the type won’t be legible). So, if you do have a logo with more than one or two elements, make yourself a couple of versions so you have options for various applications.

#2. A logo should be VERSATILE.

Aside from having elements you can take or leave depending on where you’re using it, your logo should work no matter “how” you use it. Everyone (including me) originally wants to design a logo on a huge blank canvas and in full color. In most cases, this is how you’ll use your logo – in color and on a reasonably sized space.

But let’s say your company sponsors an event and the event wants to put your logo in a pamphlet as a thank you gesture…and the pamphlet is in black/white printing only…and your logo will be next to zillions of others, so it will only have about one square inch of space on the page. Get my drift?

A solid logo needs to be sizable and look just as sexy as a thumbnail as it does on the big four-foot sign in front of your store. Furthermore, that flashy color version needs to have enough contrast that the design still translates when printed in greyscale on a crappy black and white copier. We can’t always control how and where our brand identity is reproduced, so taking these steps with your logo is the best way to protect your brand.

So there’s my little two cent ditty on logo creation. And speaking of…I’ve been finalizing one myself this week. Will be back soon with a post to share the process and, of course, the final product!

…and it’s called, “zumba”??

This is usually the response I get after describing to a friend about the fitness class I’ve been taking the past few months.

My gym started offering Zumba (pronounced zoom-buh) in January, and ever since, it has become my Thursday night mix-it-up workout.

To use Wikipedia’s definition, “Zumba is a Latin inspired dance fitness program created by dancer and choreographer Alberto “Beto” Perez in Colombia during the 1990s.” During the 45-minute class, we go through several upbeat songs, a mix of Latin and hip hop, using various combinations of fairly easy steps, all of which get your heart pumping. Every once in a while, the instructor will throw in something new and perhaps a bit tricky to challenge the class, but generally everyone is following along easily by the mid-point of a new song/routine.

The top three things I’ve learned about Zumba:

1. No, you don’t have to have ridiculous Hammer pants, and neon colored clothing to participate. I’ve NEVER seen anyone wearing the “traditional” zumba stuff to a class. Just throw on your regular gym clothes and a solid pair of cross trainers. (I wear Nike “Free” shoes because of the super-flexible sole, and they offer more support than a traditional jazz shoe.)

2. No, you don’t need dance experience, or dance shoes for that matter. A general sense of rhythm and ability to find a beat will certainly help you, but if you’ve never taken a dance class, just stand in the back and you’ll be totally fine. I promise.

3. You will burn tons of calories…but you’ll be too busy concentrating – and then after mastering the steps – shaking your groove thing – to notice! I looked it up once and in 45 mins I burn about 430 calories!

Here’s my bottom-line testament to how great of a workout Zumba is…the room we always have it in is meat locker cold when we first walk in. I literally stand there and rub my arms, shivering, waiting for class to start. Then, by the end of the class, I’m toweling off sweat and my clothes are drenched. It’s awesome.

And no, I’m not a paid endorser of Zumba haha – I’m just a really big fan! Check out the Zumba site for more info and to find a class in your area! Happy dancing!