Team Spotlight: Shane

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Who are ya?

I grew up in Ballston Spa, NY which is a small town just south of Saratoga Springs. Ever since an early age I loved to draw and create things. It wasn’t until high school when starting a landscaping business that I realized how crucial of a role graphic design plays in marketing a brand or product. It was at this point that my love for design collided with a new passion for marketing and needless to say, I was hooked. I went on to study Marketing at SUNY Oswego while continuing to educate myself on the tools of the graphic design trade.

What other interests do you have outside of art/design?

A few other passions of mine outside of design include sports, beer, and antiques. I’m a die-hard Buffalo Bills fan and until just recently became an official season ticket holder (Go Bills!). I enjoy adventures with my soon-to-be wife, Brianna and our four-legged fur child, Augie. On the list of our frequent stops are sports games, breweries, food festivals and antique shops. I love visiting antique shops, even if I walk out empty-handed, there’s something about digging through old stuff that always leaves me fascinated and inspired to start designing.

What are you going to be doing at Iron Design?

I’m a designer with a digital focus. As Iron’s primary services shift farther towards digital experiences, the team was in need of a designer like me whose portfolio reflected strength in branding and website design equally. I’ll be adopting Iron’s digital design process and contributing my creativity and experience toward many of our current website projects and eventually leading various projects on my own.

What are you most excited about for your new role at Iron Design?

Ahh – there’s so much to be excited for. I am joining a team of incredibly talented designers, making things for a variety of awesome clients, and working in a town like Ithaca (which has already won me over.)

 

 

 

Hiring Summer Interns

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It’s that time of year again: #thattimeiworkedatiron season. Perfect those pixels and send them over for consideration as our 2018 summer intern.

As part of Iron’s intern program, interns will get to develop design concepts, present ideas, and produce final production artwork for some of our real-world projects and clients. They are expected to contribute to the research phase and apply rational ideas to functional and beautiful designs with close one-on-one guidance from our design team. Interns may work on a range of different projects and project scopes, including brand strategy and logo families, user interface design, after effects animation, print collateral, signage, and a host of other project types.

Our summer session starts in early June and runs through late August (11 weeks), with a weekly commitment of 20 hours. We are able to be flexible with start dates, but feel that the hourly commitment is fair and gives students the most valuable experience during their time with us.

Expected Learning Outcomes

Interns work side by side with our designers, who will provide thorough project briefs, and equip interns with the information and tools they need to develop successful designs. Project assignments vary, and are consciously customized to match the skill sets of each intern, while still challenging them to broaden their thinking and push their creative explorations.

Interns will gain experience in presenting concepts, mocking-up designs, and preparing final artwork. Our interns will be trained to explore their research and creative process at a much deeper, professional level. Lastly, interns will advance their skills in Adobe Creative Cloud tools such as Photoshop, Illustrator, Indesign, After Effects and Acrobat, as well as Sketch, as they will be working in many of those daily. Creative experience with media platforms like Instagram, WordPress, Facebook, iMovie, and Twitter are a plus.

Think you can add some spark to the studio? Email us your resume, cover letter, and a link to your portfolio before May 1.

Branding for the Entrepreneur

Branding is a tool that can be utilized in so many ways, and at pretty much every milestone of a business’ journey. Good strategic branding will round out the unfinished edges of your consumer-facing business with exciting and thought-provoking exercises that are valuable for anyone, but especially startups. It pushes you to define the soul of your business; it’s purpose, it’s core values, the specific people it will serve, and their experience with your services. Having these aspects determined at the beginning of your business’ life sets management up to stay focused, recruit a team that aligns with and will promote your brand well, and ensures brand consistency from day 1 (even as it evolves over time).  

 

At Iron, we have grown to feel right at home with our entrepreneurship community, and want to share our perspective on the role good, strategic branding can play in the success of young, growing companies.  

 

Many startups and entrepreneurs want to collaborate on a deeper level, work fast in order to keep up, and are quick to adapt. The more we work with startups, the more we’ve been able to streamline our branding approach to go ‘off-road’: move fast and stay nimble to deliver a quicker, more iterative result.Throughout these unique processes, we’ve identified some key branding concerns to think about.

 

First things first..a logo, right?

Not quite. There are a lot of questions to ask yourself before you can understand how your brand translates to anything visual. Commit to a smart brand by setting it up for success in the early strategic phase. Your vision, mission, and positioning plan are all components of the first item on your branding to-do list; the brand strategy. We recommend working with a branding agency to create your brand strategy, but even if you don’t, sharing it with them right from the beginning of your relationship will inform a visual design system that actually aligns with your company’s purpose and speaks to the right consumer base. In a simple form, an example of this could be communicating to your branding team that your business holds gender-neutral values. That would ensure that they’d never propose messaging or visual elements that lean towards either male or female groups and avoid a lot of delay and/or wastes efforts.  

 

“Iron Design’s team was there from the beginning to help us craft a brand that exemplified Rev’s energy and mission as a business incubator. They navigated complex waters to provide us with a nice variety of options that had the right feel, but didn’t overlap with our supporters’ or community stakeholders’ brands. The Rev brand has become the best and most easily recognized of all our entrepreneurship programs; three years later, it is still going strong.”  

Tom Schryver,
Executive Director, Cornell Center for Regional Economic Advancement

 

What does my startup’s brand need as a baseline?

Of course, branding needs will vary based on the business, like the industry it falls into or its size. For example, a fashion startup will want to invest more into extensive branding, whereas a technology software startup may have other priorities for getting their business off the ground. In our experience, most businesses need the four following elements to establish a solid foundation for a brand.

  • A strategy
  • A name
  • A core message
  • Some basic visual identifiers: A color, a font, and a logo
  • and a website

 

With all of these elements established, startups position themselves in front of their audience well enough to say “We’re here, this is why, and here is what we can do for you”. Later on, you can refine your brand’s supporting visuals, its experience, and take note of your consumer perception which can further define who you are and how you fit into your local culture.

 

“Iron helped us critically evaluate our identity and…develop a refined visual identity that has been flexible as we’ve grown from business cards, to website and on into more robust marketing.”  

Michael Barnoski
Co-Founder of Trade Design Build

 

I’ve got the basic elements, now how do I use my brand?

A brand is a strategic tool, and when done right, can even contribute to reaching your financial goals. It can help your consumers form an emotional connection with your products and services. It can bring awareness to new information and demonstrate your company’s impact in engaging ways. Brands even have the ability to align your internal team’s thinking and approach to short and long term tasks. Harnessing the power of your brand and applying it in the right ways will lead to a more consistent experience for your audiences. By broadening your perspective of what a brand is and what its job is, you can more fully utilize your brand to help get things done.

 

What’s it like working with a branding agency?

For the most part, there is a general process that applies to the majority of branding agencies and even some freelance designers.  At Iron, an extensive branding project would involve taking our clients on a five-phase process that evolves from simple communication to collaborative brainstorming and ideation to pixel perfect designs ready for implementation across all elements of your brand. An example of the assets our clients walk away with include a thorough brand strategy, a unique name, a messaging strategy, a logo, color palette, typography treatments, iconography sets, an advertising or social media campaign, and a website.

 

“When it comes to startups, thoughtfully developed brands are key to helping them get a leg up on competitors, especially when scaling and building massive market share.”

Zach Shulman
Director, Entrepreneurship at Cornell, Managing Partner, Cayuga Venture Fund

 

Branding in the entrepreneurial world is an exercise for everyone involved. We believe that seeking help from professional branding agencies over quick-service design sites like 99designs.com will be invaluable to your business. By utilizing these higher quality resources, their teams will have knowledge of the kind of startup you represent, and you’ll likely form a relationship with them that will give them more insight into your startup. A strategic brand is something that can truly change the course of your new business if it’s harnessed as a tool for communication, awareness, connection, and growth.

 

Internship Recap: Kevin Zampieron

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This past June, Kevin packed his bags and hopped down the road from Rochester Institute of Technology to join the Iron team as our 2017 summer design intern. As part of the program, our interns work on real-world projects along side us, present their progress during internal critiques, adopt our tight deadlines, and enjoy all the wonders of studio life, downtown life, and summertime in the town of gorges. Here’s what Kevin has to say:

What first interested you in Iron Design’s internship program?

I was drawn to the kinds of projects Iron Design took on. I had been thinking about the ethics of design a lot, and I appreciated that the studio did work for smaller local businesses and nonprofits. I think design should enrich a community, and I thought Iron Design’s previous work reflected that idea nicely.

What was your favorite thing about Ithaca?

I loved that I could just wander around finding nooks and crannies of a town that seemed to be untouched by chain stores and urban sprawl. I’d go walking in any direction to find bookstores, vintage shops, or places to eat. Or I could take a short drive to visit some of the most gorgeous and lush natural scenery I’ve ever seen; I drove over Ithaca Falls every day to get to work. It’s a quiet gem of Upstate New York.

Talk about one thing you’ll take away [learned] from your internship with Iron?

One takeaway from my internship is that sometimes the best design isn’t always the best design. Even though you might think something you’ve been working on is really great, it might not fit your client’s needs. And that’s the criteria design is ultimately judged on. So while you might be enamored with your super-abstract hyper-minimalist brand identity, at the end of the day it’s not up to you.

What are your plans for your next year at RIT?

Oh boy. I’m excited to delve into more specialized graphic design courses, including an independent study about type in motion and a class on calligraphy. I’ll be continuing my work at Reporter Magazine, where I’m a section editor, writer, designer and occasional podcaster. I’m also getting involved with our chapter of TAGA, where I’ll be acting as the marketing director. I’m helping plan the 2018 CIAS Honors Leadership trip to Europe. I also plan on sleeping once or twice but we’ll see about that.

If you had to give advice to a future Iron intern, what would it be?

1. Don’t panic. This was my first real design internship, and I was pretty nervous at first. But the more assured I became, the more easily I learned. The Iron team is more than willing to help you out if you feel out of your depth; you might be doing real work, you’re still an intern.
2. The Shop has great coffee and you need to go there.

A selection of works created by Kevin during his internship with Iron Design. (above) A selection of works created by Kevin during his internship with Iron Design

 

Create Upstate Recap

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If you’re a creative and you weren’t at Create Upstate this past weekend, you should definitely be suffering from fomo. And if you aren’t, you can safely diagnose yourself with it now. Create Upstate is not only a celebration of upstate New York’s best agencies, freelancers, and projects, but it’s also a conference that brings all of those things together in one “gorgeous” town; Ithaca, NY.

Favorite Moments

This year’s conference graced our presence with internationally-recognized design speakers who filled our creative little hearts and brains with loads of inspiration. The conference also welcomed twizzler-made typography, vector-based laser-beam wars, one rad coloring wall, and ultimately dozens of new friendships and connections that bid farewell (or was it really just one long hello?) with hugs and business card swaps.

Now in it’s fourth year, the event is a chance to kick back and have fun with our own kind.  Some of my favorite moments included Cropped, a free-style creative tournament, the Street Fair, the not-so-Small Discussions, and live DIY screen printing. I personally, had the opportunity to be both this year’s Street Fair Coordinator and one of four Cropped judges, which brought me a new level of involvement and perspective on my upstate creative community, which needless to say, is jam packed with amazing talent, personality, and ideas.

Speakers

The speaker round-up included founder of Carpenter Collective and artist of Sunday Suns, Tad Carpenter. Tad shared finding inspiration running through the halls of Hallmark Headquarters as a child while his father’s creative role shaped the principles Hallmark Cards follow today. He was also open and proud of being a creative in the Midwest despite our industries focus on big city work these days (can I get an Amen, Upstate?).

Australian illustrator Gemma O’Brien walked us through her professional career to date, pointing out her start coming from a college project that was received as a controversial experiment that led to an opportunity to do her first conference presentation. The work she shared is beautifully intricate, peppered with whimsical details, and shows us that high-level work can happen anywhere, even on an airplane barf bag.

Cap Watkins, current VP of Design at Buzzfeed, spoke about the three indicators of a good communicator: 1) transparency (both internally and with clients), 2) strategizing before implementing decisions, and lastly, 3) being empathetic with peers and clients alike. A huge part of Buzzfeed’s success is how direct and honest their culture is. Teams use several platforms to share work at every phase of the process.

Catt Small, experience designer at Etsy, walked us through her past job experiences and how they’ve shaped her to become the designer she is today. She revealed some of her own organizational tips, but also challenged our thoughts on how our process can be a distraction from our workflow.  Most importantly, Catt reminded us to not take ourselves too seriously, and celebrate our work any chance we get. She explained that in any field, we are constantly comparing ourselves to competitors, and often forget to take a step back and celebrate the work we do day-to-day.

Thanks, Create Upstate!

Events like Create Upstate are what remind me that we, as creatives, are gifted with making a living doing something we love; something that is a part of who we are. Not many professionals have that privilege. Thanks to Ken, Sarah, and Dan for dreaming up this passion project, and bringing us all together in one place to validate our work, celebrate our talent, and inspire each other!

 

#thattimeiworkedatiron

Calling all students!

Iron is currently accepting your brightest and sassiest internship applications. But first, let us give you the low-down on #thattimeiworkedatiron before you hastily apply for any and all internships aiga and behance dig up for you….

Our interns will get to develop concepts, present ideas, and produce final production artwork for some of our real-world projects and clients. They are expected to contribute to the research phase, develop concepts, and apply rational ideas to functional and beautiful designs with close one-on-one guidance from our design team. Interns may work on a range of different projects and project scopes, from packaging to logos and branding, web UI design, GIF animations, brochure layout, signage, and a host of other project types.

Our summer session starts in early June and runs through late August (11 weeks), with a weekly commitment of 20 hours. We are able to be flexible with start dates, but feel that the hourly commitment is fair and gives students the most valuable experience during their time with us.

Expected Learning Outcomes

Interns work side by side with our designers, who will provide thorough project briefs, and equip interns with the information and tools they need to develop successful designs. Project assignments vary, and are consciously customized to match the skill sets of each intern, while still challenging them to broaden their thinking and push their creative explorations.

Interns will gain experience in presenting concepts, mocking-up designs, and preparing final artwork. Our interns will be trained to explore their research and creative process at a much deeper, professional level. Lastly, interns will advance their skills in Adobe Creative Cloud tools such as Photoshop, Illustrator, Indesign, After Effects and Acrobat, as well as Sketch, as they will be working in many of those daily. Creative experience with media platforms like Instagram, WordPress, Facebook, iMovie, and Twitter are a plus.

Think you can add some spark to the studio? Email us your resume, cover letter, and a link to your portfolio before May 1.

We also provide an AIGA job posting, here.

The Evolving Website Process

From Then to Now

One of my first projects at Iron Design was a static small-scale website.  It involved, roughly, a 20-page sitemap, and included very little dynamic functionality. The website was only designed for desktop computers — no mobile responsiveness. The process we followed simply involved creating a wireframe and refined design iterations created in Photoshop which were handed off to development. Those designs were directly translated via HTML and CSS to result in the final website. It sounds like an archaic website standard to follow today, but four short years ago, that was the standard.  It’s hard to believe, I know, and a good reminder of how quickly the nature of the web is evolving.

Milestones not Rosetta Stone

Our current process is the result of years of defining, building, and adjusting both our creative flow and the relationship with our developers.

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Not only have we reevaluated our process as a measure of success and failure, but also as a way to evolve with the advances in technology, and to transition the site into the client’s hands as smoothly as possible. Our web environment largely drives the way we design, and how we push our clients’ vision. I think that, with the adaptation of responsiveness, our web process will no longer be a set-in-stone rule book anymore, but more of a list of milestones we aim to reach that align with our scope, budget, and timeline.

The Talk

We initiate with an in-depth discussion with our client on the what / why / when / where / and how of their website goals.  Some of our preliminary questions include “Why have you decided to change your website?”, “What do you want your website to do?”, and “How involved do you plan on being post-launch?” Once we feel like we have a really good understanding of our client’s intentions, we then hit the books and do loads of research over loads of caffeinated beverages. (Some of us are coffee drinkers, and some are Mountain Dew-ers. It’s all good.)

Establishing Hierarchy

With our research curated into an action plan, and with wireframes that demonstrate how the structure of the site can situate their desired content, our clients are presented with the next milestone in our process: content hierarchy. Often our clients are excited to jump into UI, but before we can talk colors and fonts, it’s really important to establish the content priorities. What is most commonly sought after by your site users, or what do you want to really drive home in your messaging? On the other end of the spectrum, what content is your analytics determining as outdated or unuseful? By de-cluttering and re-organizing your content, we can present users with a clear picture and give them an intuitive experience that takes them to their destination quickly.

The Fun Stuff

So we do a lot of talking in the early phases of a website project. But as the visual stuff begins, the studio quiets to the soothing hum of technology.

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At this point we’re exploring everything from colors to photo styles, fonts to button styles, hover effects to plugin tools, illustrations to sound. The web is a universe of experiences and we want to make sure we create the right one for our clients and their site users.

Demo Day

No, not HGTV demo day, website demo day. And unlike the former, our demo day is more of an in-progress, iterative preview of the end result. We demonstrate our in-progress designs in the context of how they’ll actually be experienced: on a phone, tablet, laptop and desktop.

 

It’s really important to us to keep clients in this digital mode of thinking for the remainder of the project, as we’ve found that printed website UI results in an untrue, anti-climactic experience. You can’t scroll, click, hover, zoom or experience your design really filling the browser in an immersive way. Demo day is about getting a genuine reaction to the design from both the client and test users if they’re available.

The Burning Ring of Content

Following design is the daunting task of creating content.  Each website’s content has to be tackled differently as our clients all have different stories to tell and different means to develop their content. Some clients choose to simply port the content from their old website into their new one, but most want to embrace the fresh start and re-write their story. Sometimes we’ll write 100% of the content in-house, and other times it’s more of a collaborative effort between the client and designer. We’ve even experienced serious launch delays because of the obstacle that writing and photography can become for our clients. It’s best to keep it real and consider your means, budget, and timing in order to decide how you want to handle content creation.

My Teacher Hat

If the website is created in a self-editable platform like WordPress, or with a custom-built admin tool, and if the budget allows, we provide our clients with the knowledge and tools to maintain their website like pros. It’s good stuff and it lets our clients feel comfortable taking over their own site once it has launched.

3, 2, 1, Launch

Launching is exciting, weird, and strangely quiet all at once. It’s a big deal but at the same time such a subtle event. On launch day, many wonder “Does anyone know? Has anyone seen it yet?”

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This is actually an intentional step called ‘soft launch’. We quietly put the site out on your permanent URL for a week or two to gather feedback from anyone you chose to share it with. Once we’ve fixed any bugs or tweaks, we then ‘hard launch’ which is really just the act of promoting your website to the public.

In Conclusion

A successful website is an evolving marketing tool and is never truly complete. In addition to the internet being an ever-changing environment, it loves time-relevant information, and senses if a website has remained untouched for a long time, (which can actually bump it down in a search listing!) So tweaking your site, adding fresh content as often as possible, or including a blog section are all good ways to keep your site relevant and alive.

 

Cocktails with Creatives @ Argos

It’s November and, to AIGA upstate NYers, that means cocktail meetup month.  Hang out with some of the Iron Design folks, along with many other local creatives and craftsmen/women, cheers to the inauguration of your favorite 2016 presidential nominee (or drink away your sorrows at a bitter next four years), talk geeky typography, and make new connections. All good fun.  See you there!

Here are the details.

 

Packaging Competition Designs are Released

In June, we announced our position as finalists in a nation-wide packaging competition for Package Design Magazine.  Since then, our designs have been tweaked, discussed tweaked again, and submitted!

The wait to see all of the submissions was quite the drumroll, as we’re sure it was for you too!  To view our final designs, as well as the submissions on behalf of other finalists Damon Jackson and Turner Lee Consulting and Design follow the links below.  Oh, and vote for Iron!

Iron Design Submission

Damon Jackson Submission

Turner Lee Submission