Identity Re-Design: B.A.S.I.C.

In the early 1990's. my very first design project for the Portland Trail Blazers was the re-design of the identity for the Blazer/Avia Scholastic Improvement Concepts program, commonly referred to as B.A.S.I.C. Blazer Clyde Drexler was chairman of the effort, a statewide literacy project sponsored by the Trail Blazers, Avia and - at that time - Seafirst Bank. The program offered hands-on help for children to improve their academic achievement.

The logo I was asked to improve upon (below left) was a confusing conglomeration of a book, the Blazers icon, the Avia logo with tagline, the Blazers logotype and the text spelling out the B.A.S.I.C. name - all within a circle. Then the Seafirst Bank identity was dropped in below to add to the sensory overload.

I was very pleased with my simplified treatment for the identity (above center). The design was primarily made of up collegiate looking letterforms that I had drawn myself to give them a kid-friendly appearance that would appeal to the young target audience. I replaced the "I" with a stylized human figure reading a book - after all, this was a literacy program. What most kids zeroed in on immediately was that the figure was wearing athletic shoes. Across the bottom of the illustration was the name of the organization in simple and tasteful type - with the word "Blazers" plural.

Everybody loved the design - and then it was time to stick in the Blazers' fancy schmancy, new slanted icon and type treatment - and the Avia logo (thankfully without the tagline) - and the Bank of America identity (above right). Suddenly, my clean and simple design didn't appear so clean and simple. When major corporate sponsors want their logo bigger within a design, you make the logo bigger. However, I do think it was still an improvement over the design used previously.

(Note: My book, Identity Crisis!: 50 Redesigns That Transformed Stale Identities Into Successful Brands, contains case studies from 35 designers and firms located around the world. Learn more about the book on the Identity Crisis! blog.)

© 2008 Jeff Fisher LogoMotives

Eliminating geographic boundaries to
your personal creative independence

Why do so many "creative types" create geographic boundaries for themselves when it comes to working independently? I'm constantly amazed by email, phone call and speaking engagement questions and comments from solo creatives related to what are perceived as the limitations of their local geographic markets.

Huh? I don't think I got the memo about the Federal government building walls around local communities to keep designers, writers, photographers and others trapped in their hometown environments.

Admittedly, when my initial Internet presence went live in 1998, my website was intended to primarily serve as a portfolio for a predominantly local clientele. I wasn't expecting email requests for information about my services from potential clients across the United States - and then from around the globe. Suddenly there were no restrictions to the target market for my business. In the decade since, 80-85% of my business has been for clients outside of the State of Oregon.

Most of that work has been accomplished cyberly. However, some has involved travel, and an even greater escape from the self-imposed boundaries of one's home studio or independent office. I enjoy travel and make the most of taking my portable "office" with me. Advancement in communication technology has resulted in added creative freedom. - whether working from a backyard garden or anywhere in the world.

So, set your mind - and body - free! Eliminate the geographic boundaries, or personal excuses, that may prevent you from true creative independence.

This piece was originally posted on the Creative Freelancer Conference blog. Jeff Fisher, the Engineer of Creative Identity for Jeff Fisher LogoMotives, will make his presentation "Reaping the Rewards of Creative Independence" at the Creative Freelancer Conference, to be held August 27-29, 2008 in Chicago.

© 2008 Jeff Fisher LogoMotives

Why my design business is at its best
when the national economy is at its worst

My design business is "crazy busy" right now - smack-dab in the middle of all the news about the horrible U.S. economy. I could currently be working night and day - everyday. In fact, I'm now scheduling projects at least a month out on the calendar.

Such has been the case with each economic downturn (wouldn't want to use the word "recession," would I?) since I started working officially as an independent designer in the fall of 1980. What's going on?

Historically, each time we've experienced a "speed bump" in the economy throughout my 30-year career, the following have taken place:

1.) Corporate downsizing of design departments
Often, with a bad economy comes the laying off of in-house design staff. However, there's still design work to be done. With limited, or no, in-house design support the corporation or larger business finds the need to outsource their design efforts. That's when the emails and phone calls start coming in to my home-based studio.

2.) Smart businesses respond with marketing smarts
Smart businesses will have been marketing regularly prior to a "slowdown." With business perhaps a bit slower than usual, these companies will take advantage of the time to pump up marketing and promotion efforts. Often those projects will include a new, or updated business identity - something that may have been put off during periods of busier day-to-day operations.

3.) Laid off workers suddenly become entrepreneurs
Individuals who have lost their traditional jobs, and have become frustrated with a job search, may suddenly take the leap into entrepreneurship. With the cushion of a good severance package, or a "rainy day fund," it may be time for creation of one's own business. If a person can't find a job, creating their own is often a realistic possibility - and new businesses need the services of graphic designers.

4.) Somewhat secure employees plan for the future
Many people, although they feel their traditional job my be secure for the present, are planning for that future leap from the corporate cubicle world. It's often easier to be getting everything together for a future business while the monthly bills are being covered with a salary. I work with many such clients. However, the numbers do seem to rise in uncertain economic times.

The potential clients mentioned in the above scenarios contact me as a result of my own self-promotion efforts. I am marketing and promoting myself ALL the time - even when I am my busiest - to guarantee that work will constantly be coming in the door. I always encourage other creative types to be doing the same. Too many designers wait until no new work is at hand before starting to market their talent. In doing so, the panic of no projects will add a sense of desperation and stress to the quest for new contract work.

This post originally appeared on bLog-oMotives

© 2008 Jeff Fisher LogoMotives

Signing on the dotted line...

I often get email requests regarding my graphic design contract. First of all, I refer to mine as a "project agreement" - the term sounds a bit friendlier than "contract," but still shows that I mean business. I have found that my agreement has become a great "pre-qualifier" of clients. When sending out one of my promotional packets to potential clients I always include a copy of the document. Just including the agreement will show potential clients there is a seriousness to the possible business relationship.

My project agreement is created in a way that I can adapt it to the the specific requirements of a particular project. The basic document is below. Until recently it was posted on a graphic design forum site. With an overhaul of the content, the project agreement is no longer available on that site. I'm posting it here as a resource for other designers to "use and abuse."


Client contact name:

Business name:


City/State/Country/Postal Code:



(Insert your itemized description of the project here)


__ Labor fees (design, art direction, production, copywriting, client services, etc.) are estimated at a total of $_________ or ____ see attached estimate sheet for specifications.

__ Consultation fees are estimated at a total of $ __________ or ____ see attached estimate sheet for specifications.

__ Materials costs (RC/film/neg output, scanning, project specific materials, etc.) are estimated at a total of $__________ or ___ see attached estimate sheet for specifications.

Total estimated cost of project: $____________

Project estimates are valid for 90 days from the date of estimate. Project may be reestimated if, upon receipt of all project elements, the designer determines the scope of the project has been altered dramatically from the originally agreed upon concept. Printing fees will be estimated separately and payment arrangements made between client and printer.


__ A deposit in an amount equal to 35% of the total estimated cost is requested prior to execution of the project ($__________).

__ Payment in full or the remaining balance is to be paid upon delivery of the completed project. A cash discount of 5% of the total project labor and consultation cost is offered to clients paying upon delivery of the finished project.

__ Payment in full or the remaining balance is to be paid 15 days from receipt of the final invoice for the completed project. Finance charge of 1.5% per month (18% annually) on all overdue balances.

__ Additional payment arrangements:


__ The client assumes full reproduction rights upon payment for completed project.

__ One time reproduction rights for the specified project, at the agreed fee, are granted to the client. Any other usage must be negotiated.

__ All reproduction rights on the copyrighted work are retained by the designer. The work may not be reproduced in any form without consent from the designer.

__ The designer retains personal rights to use the completed project and any preliminary designs for the purpose of design competitions, future publications on design, educational purposes and the marketing of the designer's business. Where applicable the client will be given any necessary credit for usage of the project elements.


The client shall not unreasonably withhold acceptance of, or payment for, the project. If, prior to completion of the project, the client observes any nonconformance with the design plan, the designer must be promptly notified, allowing for necessary corrections. Rejection of the completed project or cancellation during its execution will result in forfeiture of deposit and the possible billing for all additional labor or expenses to date. All elements of the project must then be returned to the designer. Any usage by the client of those design elements will result in appropriate legal action. Client shall bear all costs, expenses, and reasonable attorney's fees in any action brought to recover payment under this contract or in which (Insert your company name) may become a party by reason of this contract.


The estimated completion date the project is ______________. Any shipping or insurance costs will be assumed by the client. Any alteration or deviation from the above specifications involving extra costs will be executed only upon approval with the client. Any delay in the completion of the project due to actions or negligence of client, unusual transportation delays, unforeseen illness, or external forces beyond the control of the designer, shall entitle the designer to extend the completion/delivery date, upon notifying the client, by the time equivalent to the period of such delay.


The above prices, specifications and conditions are hereby accepted. The designer is authorized to execute the project as outlined in this agreement. Payment will be made as proposed above.

Client's signature:

Designer's signature:



Remember, the above is simply a guide to follow. Your own design business may have other specific issues to include in a final contract document. My agreement is kept to one page for the sake of simplicity. I would also suggest having an attorney take a look at your completed agreement prior to putting it in use.

Some additional valuable resources for project agreement/contract information include the Creative Latitude "Resources", Creative- Business, CreativePublic and the AIGA Design Business and Ethics web page.

Books providing excellent business advice include Business and Legal Forms for Graphic Designers, by Tad Crawford and Eva Doman Bruck (with a CD of business form templates); Graphic Artists Guild Handbook: Pricing and Ethical Guidelines; Graphic Designer’s Guide to Pricing, Estimating & Budgeting, by Theo Stephan Williams; The Business of Graphic Design, by Ed Gold; and Cameron Foote's books The Business Side of Creativity and The Creative Business Guide to Running a Graphic Design Business. Of course, The Savvy Designer's Guide to Success is a very good resource as well.

This post was originally posted on bLog-oMotives in 2006.

© 2008 Jeff Fisher LogoMotives

Identity Re-Design: The Sentinel

Recently the result of my latest identity redesign project arrived in the mail - the July issue of my local neighborhood monthly newspaper, The Sentinel.

A few weeks ago "scrappy" (Note: admittedly an inside joke reference) Managing Editor and Publisher Cornelius Swart contacted me in regards to possibly redesigning the paper's identity and assisting in the establishment of a color palette for the news vehicle. Swart, who I originally met several years ago when he was working with the Portsmouth Community Development Corporation - another local identity re-design client, was familiar with my wide variety of past North Portland logo design clients. In addition, over the past 30 years I have designed identities for several publications.

The Sentinel was going through a total redesign, including a change in page size as a cost-saving measure and to allow for greater unfolded newspaper rack placement in local businesses. Art Director Colleen Froehlich was creating the still evolving page format. St. Johns web designer Andy Nelson was - and is - working on the yet to be unveiled new web presence for the paper.

In meeting with all the players, in person and via email, I got a good sense of the direction in which they hoped the public persona of the publication would go. There was a desire to have "the look" be unique, fresher and bolder, while maintaining some elements of the common appearance of a newspaper or tabloid publication. The current image seemed to be fairly traditional to me (above top).

Initially I presented type treatments of The Sentinel, with an image of an eye replacing the dot over the letterform "i" and revamped sun rays as a background, making use of the fonts Unicorn, Boca Raton Solid, Blue Blate Special and Rockwell Extra Bold. I also toyed with adding some emphasis to the "n" and "ne" letters in "Sentinel," as references to "north" and "northeast" Portland, with overly complicated results. I maintained the placement of "THE" as a element of continuity, and historical perspective, to the existing identity.

Swart and his staff narrowed the type selection to the Boca Raton and Rockwell treatments. They liked the "sexiness" of Boca Raton, but thought it might be a little too "magazine-like." Those providing input felt that Rockwell conveyed the "seriousness" needed for a newspaper, but the uppercase "S" letterform was too heavy, "clunky" and distracting. I was asked to finesse - or change - the "S" in the Rockwell treatment, to tweak the eye imagery, and play with "i" letterform a bit to make it possibly more lighthouse or "sentinel-like."

In literally going back to the drawing table, I worked on the "S" element for quite some time. I kept returning to the fact that everyone involved liked the "S" letterform from the Boca Raton font a great deal. In what was a bit of an "a-ha" moment I simply took the "S" from Boca Raton and dropped it in front of the Rockwell treatment of the remaining letters in the word "Sentinel." It seemed to work beautifully - and the newspaper crew agreed.

With some emails back and forth, in tweaking the eye element in my logo concept, the final new identity was approved (above bottom). The rays of light coming from the eye imagery seemed to become less and less important as the project progressed and eventually disappeared.

One of the things I really appreciated about working with the individuals involved in this project is that they really knew their "stuff." The design process for The Sentinel was much more of an actual collaboration than efforts with most of my clientele.

In our first meeting, Swart arrived with his copy of the Jim Krause book Color Index. Numerous Post-It notes marked color combinations he liked and was considering as possible palettes for future use in the newspaper. Once the logo design was finalized in black and white, Swart, art director Froehlich and I met to discuss the pros and cons of the various color options. From our discussion the suggested colors to be used were determined (above). While a blue and orange-ish color combination had been used previously, the new selections were richer and more intense. If used, the added suggested color options of the green and purple will give the paper an even greater visual richness.

It was great to receive the newly formatted paper (old design above left; new design above right) in the mail just days after completing the identity design. I appreciate Swart's column, and blog, mention that, "Thanks to local logo guru Jeff Fisher, The Sentinel has a spiffy new brand identity and logo."

(Note: My book, Identity Crisis!: 50 Redesigns That Transformed Stale Identities Into Successful Brands, contains case studies from 35 designers and firms located around the world. Learn more about the book on the Identity Crisis! blog.)

© 2008 Jeff Fisher LogoMotives

Toot! Toot!*:
Portfolio site DesignHide interview shines
spotlight on Jeff Fisher LogoMotives

The design industry portfolio site DesignHide is currently featuring Jeff Fisher LogoMotives as its Designer Spotlight for the month of July. Fisher is interviewed about his 30-year career, his major considerations in initiating identity design projects, advice for others starting a design career, and more. DesignHide is defined as an online resource for "creative media producers, including web designers, graphic artists, videographers, print media producers, photographers, artists, and ad managers, to display their work with the end goal of attracting new business opportunities."

As noted on the DesignHide Spotlight page, "Every month we choose a design company from within the DesignHide community that characterizes the qualities of "creative, attractive, effective design." We base this evaluation on the website of the designer, their portfolio, and their work on DesignHide. We look at hundreds of designers, many of whom have incredible portfolios, but we think that the designers featured in our Spotlight represent the best of the best." Fisher does have a portfolio posted on the DesignHide website. The designer recently included DesignHide as an online showcase possibility for designers in his blog article Marketing logo design efforts with online resources.

Jeff Fisher has received nearly 600 regional, national and international graphic design awards for his logo and corporate identity efforts. His work is featured in over 100 books on the design of logos, the business of graphic design, and small business marketing.

Fisher is a member of the HOW Design Conference Advisory Council and the UCDA Designer Magazine Editorial Advisory Board, and served on the HOW Magazine Editorial Advisory Board,. His book, Identity Crisis!: 50 Redesigns That Transformed Stale Identities into Successful Brands, was recently released by HOW Books. His first volume, The Savvy Designer’s Guide to Success, appeared on bookstore shelves in late 2004.

(* If I don’t "toot!" my own horn, no one else will.)

© 2008 Jeff Fisher LogoMotives

To market, to market, to get design gigs?

On several online forums, in recent face-to-face discussions with designers, and in numerous emails the past few weeks, the question has been the same: "How should an independent graphic designer go about marketing themselves?"

I don't pretend to have all the answers for every business. However, the most successful methods for promoting my business are listed below. Hopefully others will find some valuable advice and tools for bringing clients their way.

Industry design competitions: The majority of my marketing budget goes to cover entry fees in industry design competitions. Having pieces honored results in work being printed in design annuals and other design books. I have at least one potential client a week contact me because they have seen my work in a design book at their local bookstore. It also gives you "bragging rights" for press releases announcing your career accomplishments. Do be cautious of "design contests" that are nothing more than "spec" work in disguise.

Press releases: One of my major methods of marketing/promotion is sending out press releases about my work. Make a list of newspaper and magazine editors in your area, and the editors of design and business publications you wish to contact, and send out releases about your business - announcing a new business, new clients, completed projects, design awards and other accomplishments. Seek out press release distribution opportunities online as well such as or Developing relationships with editors, and design or business editors, creates a number of possibilities for future media exposure of one's work and business. I also send out my press releases in email format to past clients, current clients, potential clients who have contacted me, vendors, friends and family. You never know when someone needs to be "reminded" that your services are available.

Networking: Make EVERYONE you know aware of what you are doing - family, friends, neighbors, former clients, local businesses, and others. Join a local business organization, Chamber of Commerce, industry related organization (International Association of Business Communicators, local ad federations, marketing associations, Women in Communications, public relations organizations, AD2, etc.) and network with people who may need your services. ALWAYS carry your biz card with you. Part of networking is participating in online forums specific to design or business.

Blog: These days my most effective marketing tool is my blog - which is done a no cost. Still, it gets me a great deal of exposure and brings a large number of clients my way. It also directs writers and editors my way who want to use me as a resource or write about my blog. (I just did a Google search for my blog's name and 65,400 references were found.)

Website: I am surprised at the number of independent designers I come across who do not have a web presence. If you don't have a website you had better get one established. Your potential clients will EXPECT it. Most of my clients come to me by way of my website - after reading about me or seeing my work elsewhere - and 80-85% are from outside my home state.

Online directories: Make use of free and paid online directories to get your name and contact info out to possible clients. (Watch for a blog entry about online directories in the near future.)

Work with nonprofits: A good way to promote your business is to do pro bono, or discounted, work for nonprofit causes you support. You should get a credit on all the pieces being produced for the organization. You also have the opportunity to meet a lot of business leaders in the community who serve of the board of directors or are involved with the group. I discourage designers from ever doing free work for "for profit" ventures. In doing so you convey that your work has little or no value - and that's what they will remember if you go back to them for future projects.

Being the expert: Writing articles for publications, making yourself available to the media as an industry expert and being a speaker are all excellent methods of promotion. I was once contacted by a potential client who was given my name by someone who had heard me speak to a group of Small Business Development Center educators FOUR YEARS earlier! Establishing relationships with editors has been a great marketing tool for me. I was recently contacted by a writer for a major business magazine. He remembered me being quoted in an article on a website five years ago and sought me out. Such exposure always results in new client possibilities. When editors or writers contact me for quotes or illustrative content I usually drop everything to make what they need happen. Most such offers have a limited "shelf life."

Direct Mail: Target the businesses with which you would like to work and send them a postcard, brochure or flyer about your services. It's been over 15 years since I've done so, but when I did I had ten new clients over a period of several weeks and I was still getting work from the one 750-piece mailing five years later.

For me it's all about spending as little as possible to market/promote my efforts for maximum exposure and results. My work is constantly promoting itself - with minimum effort by me. I do dedicate at least half of each Friday - the day each week that I have no client contact - to marketing and promotion.

As I mentioned earlier, this is not the "be all, end all" list of marketing and promotion possibilities for the independent designer. Still, the suggestions should be helpful in getting you started with some marketing efforts.

Note: This article originally appeared on bLog-oMotives in 2006. For additional information and suggestions, check out some of my other blog entries on the topic of self-promotion.

© 2008 Jeff Fisher LogoMotives

Marketing and promotion via a 'blogfolio'

I was a bit naive about the Internet when my original Jeff Fisher LogoMotives website went live in the fall of 1998. The largest newspaper in the state, The Oregonian, had interviewed me for a feature story about my business and, at the end of the interview, the reporter asked me if I had a website.

In saying "yes," I told a bit of a fib. No, let me correct that, I told an outright lie. I had a URL registered, and had thought about the website a little - but no effort at all had been put into actually creating a web presence of any kind.

I gave the reporter the URL and went into panic mode. I had three to four days to get a site up and running before the article was published the following Monday.

Over the course of a long weekend, my partner Ed, friends Scott Randall and Jason Holland, and myself worked days and nights to get a website up and running. Sunday night it was all set to go. On Monday morning I retrieved The Oregonian from my front porch and a great article had been published - with all my contact information, including the web address, edited out of the piece due to concerns about length.

Still, I now had a website - which I saw as nothing more than an online portfolio for my primarily local clientele. I had given no consideration to the fact that my website had an immediate international audience. Soon I was attracting clients from across the United States and around the world.

For the next nine years the website remained fairly static. There were minor updates, but not a lot changed. I was kind of in an "if it ain't broke, don't fix it" mode. Redesigning, or updating, the site was one of those things I might do when I had the time. Yeah, right.

This past fall my second book, Identity Crisis!: 50 redesigns that transformed stale identities into successful brands, was being released. The upcoming major event in my life made me realize that I was actually embarrassed by my now tired, old website. At that time I'd been writing my blog, bLog-oMotives, for about two years and I really enjoyed the process. A few months earlier I'd also started a blog to promote the Identity Crisis! book. Creating an online portfolio in a blog format seemed a natural, and manageable, solution for me - especially since, although I use a computer daily for my work, I am not a skilled technician when it comes to such things (nor do I want to be!). Knowing just enough to be a bit dangerous is just fine.

The Jeff Fisher LogoMotives "blogfolio" was born.

A little over seven months since its initiation, I am very pleased with the results my "blogfolio" has produced. With a Jeff Fisher LogoMotives homepage - making use of my decade-old URL - directing visitors to all three blogs, many more potential clients seem to find their way to me. It gets much more traffic than ever visited my more traditional site. Potential clients, clients, editors, writers, design peers, design students, design educators and others have all taken the time to compliment me on the new web presence and its content.

I really appreciate how the blog format has allowed me to easily exhibit examples of my work, share articles I've written, post articles written about my work, present my "Toot! Toot!" press releases and even recycle a few bLog-oMotives entries into a concise archive. I've especially enjoyed presenting my identity redesigns and "excavated design artifacts" again.

A "blogfolio" may not work for everyone, but it's been a great marketing and promotion tool for Jeff Fisher LogoMotives.

© 2008 Jeff Fisher LogoMotives.