Here’s the stuff we wrote about in our last incarnation. Some of the stuff is still valid. Some of it – not so much…

So Long, Bele Chere…

Some folks are lamenting the loss of Bele Chere as the loss of something that is Asheville. I see it this way: Asheville is better than Bele Chere every damned day of the year. Bele Chere had a way of condensing a few of the good parts of Asheville along with a lot of the worst parts of the rest of humanity into one slightly smelly, over-dense, hot little 3 day nugget. My Asheville has more freaks and fun and food and frivolity on a Wednesday afternoon in September than most places have all year ’round.

You can keep the heat, the crowds and the overpriced tchotchkes. My Asheville has enough kickassery the other 362 days of the year, thank you very much. I spent my weekend in the woods with the kids and a box of fried chicken. When I get the all-clear, I’ll venture back into town and enjoy Asheville for the jewel that it is. An unsweaty, uncrowded jewel.

So long, Bele Chere. It’s been real…

New Launch for New Life…

newlifeWe were approached by New Life, Inc. of Asheville to build a website for their recovery programs. New Life operates a group of homes that promote sober living through 12 step programs, healthy community and personalized recovery programs. We’re happy to help out by building a good looking and easily updatable website. Built using WordPress and Woo Themes, this site is easy to maintain, update and change, as all aspects of the site are user-configurable without getting into code or other such mucking about.

Check ’em out. Great folks, a great cause and a (if we do say so ourselves,) great site.

Colors. Oh, the Colors.

Color is such a broad and difficult story – because everyone sees and “feels” color differently. There are some constants, but the only real constant with color is that it’s totally inconsistent, because people are pretty inconsistent.

The way people interact with or react to color is reasonably predictable – it’s why pink walls in jail cells work as opposed to red – but the way that people mechanically see color can be a real crap shoot to design around. That’s what we’re talking about here – color in design, web sites, printed goods, on monitors and on paper – and it really is one of the biggest issues designers can face*. There are a few reasons:

Firsteveryone’s eyes are different. Blue eyes are more sensitive to bright lights, and stuff can seem washed out. It’ll also give you a wonderful headache that caffeine can’t cure.

Seconda “significant portion” of the public is color blind to one extent or another. Since there is so much subtlety and finesse involved with color, a small variance in the way one set of eyeballs mechanically sees color can make a huge difference in how the finished piece can look.

Thirdhow many damned devices do we have to design for? And each one of those devices can be different within it’s own model – one Apple monitor doesn’t look like another – then you have to multiply that error rate by the number of different devices, sizes, ages, conditions, and other factors, and you wind up with a billion different problems. Then – is it going on paper? What kind of paper – and where was it manufactured? Tshirts? Billboards? Stickers? HOLY CRAP! If it’s getting printed, how? What kind of ink. How much pressure while it’s being printed? Offset or digital? On and on it goes.

Fourth – environmental issues affect how you see color. Natural light at 4 o’clock in the afternoon is not the same as natural light at 1:30 in the afternoon. There are a million different types of lights, light bulbs, light fixtures and wattages and dimmers and manufacturers. Add to this the shape of the room. Then, the color of the walls make a difference. That coffee mug on your desk? It’s throwing some reflective light onto your screen.

Fifth – color interacts with other color. If you put red and grey next to each other, the effect of those colors on each other is totally different than if it was red and bright baby blue. Get the wrong colors together, and it looks like they vibrate. It’s weird – but cool.

Let’s break it down to a mathematical equation, and we’ll start with the different colors of eyes as our base number. Let’s say there are only 3 – blue, brown and green. Then, we’ll just say that there are only 5 variants of color blindness. 15. Let’s say there are only 1000 different devices with 5 variants per device. 75000. Fourth – let’s just say that there are only 200 different environmental factors. Now we’re up to a cool 15 million. Fifth, let’s say that there are only 50 color combinations that will ever interact with each other and we wind up with 750,000,000 different ways to “see” a single color, and I’m vastly underestimating the numbers. You get the point.

All of this is to say that color is a moving target. There are ways to mitigate the mechanical differences in color – Pantone books, color calibrators, etc – but you can’t make everyone sees your color the same way you see it. Just can’t. Thankfully – like I mentioned – people’s reaction to color is pretty predictable, so understanding that predictable reaction is paramount in choosing color for designwork.

There are “selling colors” and “love colors” and “action colors” and “calming colors.” There are subtle nuances inside those categories – and you can mix and match and complement and contrast – but you have to use color properly for it to be effective. Just because you think your logo looks great in yellow, that doesn’t mean that it’s the best choice to present to your customer/demographic. Personal taste and choice is kind of out the window here.

So – what do you do? Throw up your hands and say “whatever?” Run screaming? Say “screw it” and just go with bad color? No – you lean on experience – and a couple of tools. Pantone books are great – they are the de facto king of color in the design realm. Color calibrators. Color proofs and other stuff. We’ve got you covered. You don’t have to worry about making sure your color looks right across the board. That’s our job.

We can help you pick the right color for your project, and we can help make sure it looks great everywhere.

See, we’ve “done color” enough to know what looks good and how to translate that to the finished piece. You want your business cards, your web site and your tshirts to all look great AND look like they belong together. You want consistency in your color, and we know how how to deliver.

We understand color. We can help YOU understand color. Let’s go.

*the foremost is lack of talent – but I suppose that’s subjective. I digress. I know that’s unusual.

Best Coffee in Asheville!

With all those dumps serving sub-standard coffee on Haywood Road, it’s good to know that I can still get the Best Coffee in Asheville with a short drive.

Please rest assured – if you contact us and go for a cup of coffee with us, we won’t take you to Krispy Kreme. We know good coffee. We know good design. We know how to market your business – and we don’t resort to dirty tricks and shady advertising to do it.

And yes, this is a real screen shot from Google Maps. Goes to show you that online reputation management is important – but it’s also important to be real. At some point, people will find out that Krispy Kreme isn’t the best coffee in Asheville. Don’t get me wrong – I’ve chased numerous fried dough balls covered in sugar with their coffee, and it’s not bad – but I’m a bit of a coffee snob/freak – it’s just not good or great or the best. Claiming “best coffee in Asheville” is a bold move. Maybe Krispy Kreme is just “naming it and claiming it.” Perhaps I should be proud of them for putting out there. Or, I could just get good coffee somewhere else and smuggle it in to KK. Yeah – that sounds more like me.

Happy 2013, people. Let’s do coffee. And design. And doughnuts.

(And a big shout to the good folks at BattleCat coffee – “E” on the map. I’m pretty sure I’m composed entirely of #46 at this point, and the staff is super-cool. If you want good coffee, that’s a great place to start.)

WordPress and Woo Themes Site Launched for Varminter.com

VARMINTS! Actually, I’ve found that if you yell that in the middle of the Asheville Mall, people give you wide berth. Nice.

Eric at Varminter.com needed a website built around his forums, which are lively and full of varminters. Varminters are guys who hunt rodents and pests for sport, property protection and population control – and who are also avid outdoorsmen (and women) and very much into conservation. I’ve found that hunters and sportsmen can be some of the most environmentally conscious people out there. They care about the lands they hunt and the animals on them. Pretty cool.

Anyhoo – enough of my soapbox. Back to self-aggrandizement:

We built the site using the Woo Themes framework so that they have the maximum in flexibility and ease-of-use. We also used some nifty plugins to give them a fully functional and branded mobile site, as well. All of this without disturbing the forums or any of their other information that needed to stay in place. With rotating advertising, a mobile design, expandable framework, super search engine ability and tons of great features in an easy-to-use interface, Varminter.com is poised to grow.

Check ’em out.

Asheville Web Design and Logo Design – StoneCloudStudio.com

stonecloudthumbAnother day, another Asheville web design & web site launch. Plus, a little logo love thrown in.

Husband and wife team Todd Frahm and Lara Nguyen needed a new logo and look – and they needed business cards and a website to help promote their art.

Yes – they’re our clients, but we’d say this if we didn’t know them: They’re AMAZING. Todd and Lara are artists – and they’re both incredibly talented. You really do need to check them out.

Enough with gushing – back to business – the name of their studio (in the River Arts district of Asheville,) is Stone Cloud Studio. After a bit of back-and-forth, we developed a logo with a couple of variations that will suit their needs across a lot of media. The logo was designed to be flexible enough for signage, printed goods and a lot of different color applications. There’s nothing worse than a logo that is difficult to design around, but this one turned out bold, beautiful, simple and super adaptable.

The site, likewise, is a simple design that allows for a lot of updating and easy management, as well as an online store that is also totally flexible. Having a blog and an easily updatable portfolio segment were important features, and – well – that’s what they got. They also needed a more Google-friendly structure and framework, and WordPress really fit the bill here.

Built with WordPress, WooThemes and WooCommerce, this site allows Todd and Lara to keep it fresh, keep Google seeing it. Plus, it looks pretty damned good, if we do say so ourselves.

Check out the live site by clicking here. See both versions of the logo in our logo design portfolio. Check out the web design portfolio. It’s the best. THE BEST.

First Page on Google?

1Your site must be on Google. You NEED to be on the first page on Google. Why? First – why you must be listed on Google:

  • In the average month, Americans searched 15.5 billion times. Yeah – billion.
  • Google accounts for 10 billion of those searches. Yahoo chimes in with around 3, Bing/MSN 2 billion, and the rest – well, not many.

So – you can see that Google accounts for over 80% of all searches. It’s important, right? Now – the really interesting stuff happens when you start breaking the numbers within Google – and this is why you need to be on the first page:

  • The first listing in any Google search gets 42%+ of all click-throughs. (That’s the number of clicks after a search.)
  • The second listing falls to 12% of clicks. Third is around 9%, number 4 is 6%.
  • The first page listings in Google account for 90% of all click-throughs. The whole second page is about 4 1/2%. The whole third page is about almost 2%. It gets smaller and smaller – and that’s NOT a good thing.

What does that mean for you? It means that if you’re not highly ranked, you can really lose a lot of potential traffic (customers, clients and money.) That’s where we come in…

We can’t guarantee first page placement – nobody can*. We do offer a few things, though. We will optimize your site so that when Google comes looking, they find something to grab on to. We help you develop a content plan – one that will help you build relevant content that the search engines just love, but also that your customers will actually want to read. We’ll fiddle under the hood and make sure it’s all where it should be, and that you’re using the optimum settings for optimum traction within Google and – just as importantly – traction with what your customers are looking for. If you have the wrong understanding of what people are searching for when they’re looking for your goods or services, you’re missing the whole mark. We do the legwork so that the end results work

What this means is that your site will move up the rankings – and that is a good, good thing.

We help you understand what Search Engine Optimization means, what it does and what you can really expect. You need a plan, you need consistency and you need a site that actually works with Google – not that damages your chances. We can help with all three. Plus – we can make you look damned good. Did I mention we offer design services, too? BOOM. Cross-sell.

 

All of this comes with a caveat – not every business in the world would benefit from being #1 on Google. Not every business needs a website. Not every customer base actually uses a computer. If all of this just won’t work for you and actually give you a return on your investment, we’ll be honest about that – and we can help you develop other marketing ideas that WILL work for you. Just adding a little realism into a subject that is sold as if it’s a 100% necessity for everybody out there…

*There are plenty of people out there selling “magic beans.” You trade a lot of money for these beans, and they don’t grow the beanstalk and you don’t find the goose that lays the golden egg. You might avoid the giant, but you’re stuck with a bunch of beans. And no goose. Don’t be suckered into the beans.
Photo credit to this lovely little Etsy shop.