Star Telegram covers Yellowfin acquisition

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Grapevine’s Ascend Marketing buys Austin company

Grapevine-based Ascend Marketing has acquired Yellowfin Design + Strategy in Austin.

The marketing and communications firm said the acquisition will expand its client base and enhance its digital design and branding capabilities.

“It is about growth in terms of markets and staff capabilities,” said Rich Herbst, Ascend’s managing partner, in a statement. “Equally important, it opens the doors to an important, new pool of talent. Austin has a tremendous wealth of talented technology and marketing people.”

Read more here 




Yellowfin proud to announce Our Church hitting the app store

Our Church is a private social network to help connect small groups in churches. The native app just hit the app store a few weeks ago with a really fresh brand and interface design by Yellowfin. 

Lake Hills Church in Austin is the first pilot location for the app. Our Church is currently looking for churches who would like to provide their parishioners with a new way to communicate and connect with each other. 

Small groups are the heart of a church. Our app makes it easy for small groups to stay in touch beyond Sunday and the church walls.
— Bill Hyche, CEO

The design of the logo is a visual symbol of small groups making up the foundation of the church, with an uplifting color palette that adds a youthful fun and vibrancy. The user interface design of the app went through rounds of user testing to perfect every element of the church-goer's experience, and to make it work for a wide range of ages. 




Three Guys Built a Better

Is it possible to rework an existing site's UX?

No one knows the resources that went into building, but the government quickly realized it wasn't enough after that terrible first day, so they decided to bring in a crew of leading tech experts to fix the website's many, many problems. But the job was already at least partially completed by three unknown coders living in San Francisco. 

Read the Altlantic article here.



Trend towards flat color demands fine tuned attention to hue


With the release of the iPhone in 2007, the trend in interface graphics turned the majority of designs dimensional. Every object morphed into an imitation of the physical space, gaining highlights, shdows, texture and dimension. Backgrounds became soft gradients. The illusion of space, artificially created by visual tricks, became the norm for our interactive world. 

The 2013 release of the iPhone officially catches it up with what other interfaces have been moving to already... flat design. And now this aesthetic has been quickly trickling into corporate sites and communications. 

To successfully implement a flat color design, designers and marketers need to take a closer look at hue. In the world of bubbly objects and shadows, hue (commonly referred to as color) is pretty forgiving as the eye can pick out the most pleasing shade. If you take the same colors and turn them into flat graphics, you no longer have the highlights and shadows that make the object 'pop' off the background and become visible. The hues butt up against one another and you're left with only color relationships to create visibility. 

In order to ensure enough contrast is present to see and read objects well, it's important to take a closer look at the contrast created between the two colors. In the example above, the background was adjusted to a cooler gray, and the colors were shifted to a lighter, mintier hue to increase contrast. 

The best thing to remember when shifting your brand to flat graphics is that color is completely relational. 



Rebranding NewsCorp

The latest rebranding effort by NewsCorp has caused quite a bit of chatter on what it represents visually for the company.  The past few years have seen the company take a lashing in the press on tactics involved with some of their investigative journalists and editors, as well as concern that the new owners would take the Wall Street Journal down the tabloid path.   

 The previous logo was a more austere version of the global reach of the media company.   The new logo which is uncredited may have been developed in-house.

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 From the moment of our inception on June 28th, we will be a business of incredible scale and success, an unrivaled global network of valuable, powerful and complementary brands.

These exceptional brands, coupled with you, our immensely talented teams around the world, the balance sheet that is our financial foundation and our well-known relentless, restless spirit of invention, pave the way for our bright future. We will reach more people than ever before through our digital platforms.

Today we are unveiling a new logo that will be our emblem for this future. The name is historic and the script is based on the writing of Rupert and his father, who have provided us all with not only a name, but a remarkable professional platform.

-Quoted from CEO Robert Johnson's PR Release

Most critics and commenters have been concentrating on how this visual representation is a cynical wash of their true selves.  I disagree, while the mark may not be the best representation of a brand looking forward to reaching an audience in the digital realm, it does represent what NewsCorp has become, less of a news company and more of a media company.   

The original mark said "We are a global News Company", the new one leaves space for both the Dow Jones and the New York Post to live in.  It frees up the overarching corporate brand constraints and allows for an easier family of sub-brands to exist in.

As a side-note I do think the structuring of all of their entertainment entities under the new 21th Century Fox structure was a smart idea and I like what they've done with the mark. Congratulations to Pentagram for another elegant logo.




Content driven architecture at The Cosmopolitan Hotel in Las Vegas

In our business, we're constantly talking about, working with, planning for, and managing content. This can take the form of pictures, videos, feeds, headlines, text, links, and any other amounts of 'stuff' we need to fill our digital space (like this blog post:).

In fact, over the past 5-7 years, content itself has been driving the evolution of both design and the user experience online. Almost everything we do online is centered around consuming content. 

So I was truly inspired a few weeks ago when I went to Las Vegas to find that some truly brilliant architects at Arquitectonica seem to have mastered the art of content driven architecture. The entire design of their lobby is driven by the beautiful videos in a continuous loop literally creating the massive columns and covering the space behind the check in desk. 


This next image is actually a picture of the ceiling of the lobby.

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This shows how it all ties together with the check in desk.  

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Pulling the rug out from your base; what did JC Penney do to rile up their customers?

The strange journey of JC Penney's brand overhaul seems to be an example of how not to retool your core offerings.

I was very interested to see what was going to happen to a retail brand that was never considered cutting-edge even at the height of their success in the 60's and 70's.  JCP, as they are now known as, had always been a leader in discount merchandising. The company used coupon and clearance sales extensively and it's customers became accustomed to hunting down the deals.

Fast forward 40+ years.  JCP hires Ron Johnson the former CEO of Apple Stores to push the stuffy brand into the modern age.  Out go the discount pricing and clearance racks and in goes stylish modern fixtures and a new pricing system, "Every Day Deals".  

Instead of discounted sales throughout the store, Johnson put in place "Monthly Values" on certain items in each department and "Best Price" specials tied to paydays (Fridays).  In addition, the clothing lines were completely retooled into different shops. Fits were modernized to an extreme and customers quickly complained that their normal cuts were now in the Big and Tall or Plus Size departments.  

All of this was done within 12-18 months after the announcements and the new hires.  Did it work?  Well, not really. The company continues to post massive losses and Ron Johnson was fired with his predecessor, Mike Ullman returning in the interim until a new CEO steps up for cleanup.

What's the lesson here?  What did they do wrong?

It seems to be a situation of too much, too fast and without customer participation. In this age of instant measurement and social media, someone was feeling left out.  And that someone was the one who paid the bills, the customer.

Immediately with the launch of the new lines with a new spokesperson, Ellen Degeneres (a former employee of JCP) there was a furor in their social media space. A conservative group flooded their Facebook page with criticism of the spokesperson and even the retooled clothing lines. The criticism was organized and with strong frequency.

This past month JC Penney has made an apology in a touchy-feeley commercial.

How could they have avoided this.

1. Support fundamental changes with employee training.  

Brand confusion starts at home.  Employees need to understand what the major changes that will affect their customers will be and how to instantly respond to the criticism.  Both in your brick and mortar stores and within social media.

2. Don't throw out the baby with the bathwater.

Measure where your core success has been in the past and develop new strategies around it.  If JC Penney had polled it's customers they would've found that they enjoyed the hunt for bargains and the accomplishment of finding a hidden deal. The new structure took all of that away and left a very different shopping experience. 

3. Don't suddenly change your product's promise.

The fit that caused fits.  The retooling of the mens department meant super skinny cuts for a young, fit crowd. The customers were angry and rightfully so.  People that were used to buying for everyone in their family without them coming into the store and people buying online were returning merchandise in droves.  Instead JCP should have phased in their in-store Shops slowly without completely shutting down their most-popular lines such as St John's Bay.  

 Oklahoma City 1964 

Oklahoma City 1964 

 The Joe Fresh in-store Shop

The Joe Fresh in-store Shop

 Izod Men's Shop

Izod Men's Shop



Yellowfin completes new consumer packaging branding & design


We recently completed this consumer packaging project, including naming, identity design, and packaging for a new glass face cover for smart phones.

The main brand name of V•tra was selected among many options, it is derived from the word vitrum, which is latin for glass. This shortened version was available as a .com URL, and is a little more friendly than the latin origin. The product itself, VGlass, will include four versions; anti-smudge, anti-glare, privacy (screen visible from front only), and anti-bacterial. 



Identity - Do you fake it or do you make it?

Come see our fun interactive exhibit at the South by Golab event this Saturday. As the official Fine Art sponsor, we put our creative heads together and came up with a fun interactive way to question and play with identity documentation. Read more here.

Be sure to RSVP here for the event. Share your photos with us!!

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A design and strategy approach shows the benefits of being platform agnostic


It's a big decision! There are so many positives and negatives to consider when planning the technology platform that will run your website.

If price is the biggest factor, going with a hosted platform is often a great solution. These include platforms like Squarespace or Spacecraft, that offer an array of design starting points. The benefit is that it's often a low cost solution, as well as being fully stacked with the latest and current SEO optimizations, social media integrations, and nifty gallery features built in. The downside is that you don't actually own the site, you just own the content on it. You really just lease the software from the company. So you have no option on where it's hosted, nor can you pick it up and move it. If you stop your contract, your site is literally 'off.'

Custom building can happen in a variety of ways, and involve a variety of platforms. These range from the fast-cheap approach of customizing a Wordpress template, to the slightly more involved process of  building a custom PHP interface. Other than Wordpress, which is the most popular platform right now, there is Drupal and Joomla who both offer many features. All of these are open source, so finding developers are plentiful. One downside is that it's really kinda hard to know exactly how good your developer is before you start (unless you can assess code), so sometimes you can get into a bit of a rabbit hole in hour after hour and round after round of edits. 

Beyond that, sites need to be optimized for mobile performance. This doesn't require iOS or Android platform programming, but it does require planning. Some interactive projects need to actually be built on a native app platform. 

The benefit of working with a design focused company is that you won't get locked in to any particular platform, and can be more confident your technology selection is right for your project. We believe it's best to have a solid strategy, plan, and even a pretty detailed set of wireframes prior to finalizing a technology decision if it's not predetermined by other factors. 


Calling all AIA Austin members - online marketing strategy lunch and learn 2/13


Calling all AIA Austin members - online marketing strategy lunch and learn 2/13

If you're a member of AIA Austin (or you know one), I'm inviting you to join me for a lunch and learn I am hosting on Tuesday February 13 from 12-1. Here's what we'll cover:

This is a great “how to” for businesses looking to market themselves online leveraging the multitude of free or inexpensive tools available today. From Wordpress websites to social media and email platforms, leave this course with a better understanding of the tools and how to use them to promote your business online.

Here are the takeaways:

1) Learn to rethink your website: It’s more important to start it than to finish it.

2) Learn to become a content producer: When you start publishing your content online, you establish yourself as an expert.

3) If you build it, they won’t come: Your content is no good unless people know it’s out there. Learn how to broadcast your content.

4) What does it really take? A cold hard look at what marketing resources your business requires and what options you have for getting things done.


Welcome to Yellowfin


Welcome to Yellowfin


If you don’t have a meaningful, authentic answer to this question, you may find your marketing efforts screaming “Notice me!” but ultimately being forgettable. When you do find the answer to that all-important question and incorporate it into your marketing efforts, you are suddenly able to deeply engage your audience rather than just talk “at” them. When your ideal audience connects with your meaning and jives with your personality, they are moved to share your message with others. That is the effect we want your brand to have. Much like the human mind, your brand can grow, adapt, and evolve into this role. We have the real-world tools to get you started and guide you through the process.



How is your brand different from your identity?


If you’ve been hanging around your marketing department lately, you’ve probably heard the phrases “branding”, “logo”, and “identity” thrown around a lot. I would bet they get thrown around pretty interchangeably.

The fact of the matter is that your brand and your identity are quite different, indeed. One you can control completely, and the other… well, it’s not completely in your control.

Let’s start with what you can control… your identity. (See infographic). Your identity consists of all things visual and verbal associated with your company. If you were a person, your identity would be your clothes and your style, and the words that you say. When you’re defining yourself as a person (or company), suiting up and showing up is really important. You know, choose the right shoes, hairstyle, and clothes, and make them appropriate for where you are showing up. That’s all a metaphor for the assets that make up your identity: your name, your logo, graphic assets, tagline, the voice and tone of your content, and many more things. Ideally, you control every version of every touchpoint that reaches your audience, from that last ad you ran to your email newsletter and the packaging of your product. All of that compromises your identity, and should be carefully designed, monitored, and managed by you.

How your brand is different from your identity is where it gets interesting. (See infographic). It might be helpful to talk about this in our person metaphor. Imagine again you are the company. You’ve dressed the part and showed up at the party. Next, you maybe have a few too many and end up dancing on the table with a crowd of stunned onlookers. The experience your onlookers are having while you boogie down on the table (shock, hilarity, fascination, admiration, condemnation, etc) is your brand. See how it can get kinda messy? Everyone has a different experience of you, even if your identity is consistent throughout. Especially when “you” is a company, and your representatives in our society number in the hundreds or thousands. Every time a customer has an experience with one of your employees, it impacts your brand. Every time someone reads a review of you online, it affects your brand. Cumulatively, this makes up a collective experience… what the general public, your employees, and your partners think of as you. While your brand can’t be completely controlled, you can proactively put policies in place that help your employees influence and impact the public’s experience with you.



New Client: CleanFUEL USA


We’re excited to start working with CleanFUEL USA, out of Georgetown, TX. We’re kicking off our engagement with them by reworking their graphic standards, designing, writing, and launching a new website, and updating all of their print, tradeshow and advertising collateral. Once we’re ready with all of that, we’ll start regular on-going lead generation campaigns and trade advertising.

CleanFUEL USA is the country’s first maker of engines, stations, and dispensers for Propane Autogas. They OEM engines for General Motors and outfit school bus fleets with Propane.

Have you heard of Propane Autogas? While working with CleanFUEL, we’ve learned that it allows fleets to operate on 40% less cost than gas, reduces emissions by 70%, and is all domestically produced. As an alternative fuel, it’s here, ready, and performing. Hopefully soon, CleanFUEL can lead the way in getting Propane Autogas into consumer vehicles– much like 20% of all vehicles in Australia run on.

Thanks to CleanFUEL for trusting us with your brand, and allowing us the honor of helping you grow and expand!