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Design Photography Thoughts

Design comes full circle – Mineh Ishida

July 28, 2015 | by Mineh Ishida
Fuji Cameras by Mineh Ishida

It’s funny how design goes in cycles.

I recently added a new camera to my gear. It’s a Fuji X-E1, a modern digital camera in an old fashioned style. I needed a high quality camera that was small enough to carry in my day bag. The fuji was released a few years ago, so I was able to get it at a good price, and the image quality is fantastic.

I love the old fashioned aesthetic.  It really hit home when I went to get the camera and grabbed my Fujica 35 Auto-M by accident. Putting them side by side I marveled at how design aesthetics and functionality tend to repeat in cycles.  This modern camera sporting some of digital photography’s newest technologies has taken design cues, both stylistically and functionally from cameras from the 60s.

Another exciting part about this camera is that due to the new technologies, this camera can accept retro lenses.  I can’t wait to get an adapter and put some M-42 or Minolta lenses on this.  Old and new are really clashing together in this camera, and I really like it.

Anyway, my point is, design tends to cycle… Thats why I think it’s so important for artists and designers to study historic styles and designers.  Looks like it’s time for me to do some research!

Business Design

How Starbucks Uses Design to Build Their Audience

July 2, 2015 | by Mineh Ishida
Starbucks understands the value of design | Photo by Mineh Ishida

Living in Tampa, I don’t see a lot of companies who truly understand the value of design in attracting and keeping the right customers.  There are a handful of companies who do it well, but on a day to day journey through the businesses in this town, the majority of the branding and marketing are quite outdated, and don’t seem to have a targeting strategy.  I think this is why I’m always so excited when I walk into a Starbucks store.  Here is a company that understands the value of design. They wield design like a well trained fencer manages their sword.  It’s an extension of who they are, and they wield it with pinpoint accuracy in accomplishing their marketing goals..

Starbucks Targets Their Audience Through Design

The majority of Starbucks’ target audience consists of the young adult population.  These are both men and women who fall between the ages of 25 to 40. This demographic accounts for just shy of 50% of their total business.  In order to attract this audience, Starbucks uses trendy design that keeps their customers feeling like the brand is current and a part of the “lifestyle” that these consumers want to live.

If you look at online design trends for this population, you’ll find many common themes reflected in the branding at Starbucks stores.  At the time of this article’s writing, Modern retro designs, polygon based designs, minimalist flat designs and informational icons are all still very prominent in the consciousness of this age group, and in the designs of many trending products.  Starbucks has integrated all of these trends into their branding.  Just look at these photos:

Modern retro design at a Starbucks store | Photo by Mineh Ishida

Modern retro design at a Starbucks store | Photo by Mineh Ishida

Polygon background with modern retro badge design at a Starbucks store | Photo by Mineh Ishida

Polygon background with modern retro badge design at a Starbucks store | Photo by Mineh Ishida

Minimal flat design featuring informational icons at a Starbucks store | Photo by Mineh Ishida

Minimal flat design featuring informational icons at a Starbucks store | Photo by Mineh Ishida

Design Creates an Experience in Starbucks Stores

If you haven’t yet read the interview that Dieline did with the Starbucks creative team, I highly recommend it.  It provides a lot of insight into the design strategy and process of the brand. I particularly liked the following statement:

“The brand is almost like a friend—a unique, well-traveled, cultured friend you know well but who always manages to surprise you” – Jean Marie Shields

It’s so amazing how the little things change the feeling of the room.  From the fonts on the wall, to the color palette of the products, every thing in the store has a feeling like it belongs there.  Don’t confuse this to mean that everything is in the same style.  There are is a diversity in style among the different brand assets, but overall, they tie together well.  It reminds me of a curated gallery. There may be different artists represented in a gallery, but a well curated exhibit will have a central theme that ties it all together.  This is the feeling I get when I walk into a store.  The combination of all of the design elements create a dynamic and exciting environment that has a pronounced effect on my experience with the store.

Change Makes it Fresh, Consistency Keeps it Comfortable

One thing that I found that Starbucks has done really well is that every few weeks, the designs in the store have changed. Either there are new featured products, or the branding and signs have changed. This keeps the store feeling very trendy and cutting edge.  We’re trained by advertisers and the high volume of information that we receive to tune out things that become familiar. Starbucks changes it up periodically and regularly, so that their messaging and brand feels current, and does not get stale. I think this is very important to any brand that is trying to maintain repeat business, especially with younger customers.

What they do not do however is change the feel of the store. The designs all have a consistency, like I mentioned above. You know you’re in a Starbucks store. The branding is versatile but recognizable. This is critical, as part of Starbucks’ success comes from the fact that people feel like their branch store is their “home.” It must remain comfortable and inviting so that the brand can build and retain a community of customers.  This comfort comes from familiarity, so new designs must “feel” the same, while gently evolving with the new marketing messages.

Your Business Can Learn from Their Example

Businesses today have to stand out, and it’s an ongoing challenge with all the competition out there.  Starbucks has managed a viral growth through savvy business and marketing.  I feel like design has also been a very integral part of this success.  If businesses want to market to their target audience and build a following of repeat business, they could learn a thing or two from the example provided by Starbucks.  Design can be a powerful force in attracting and retaining the right customers.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I need another Green Tea Frappuccino.

Business Design

Starting a New Design Business – 5 Things to Do

May 30, 2015 | by Mineh Ishida
5 Things to Do When Starting a Design Business

So you’re starting a new design business, or you’ve decided to go freelance. Many people struggle when they start and need some advice.

My creative agency Arcturus Creative was started one year ago on a shoe string budget. It was not an easy launch, but we’re still in business a year later with some amazing clients, and I would consider the business a success. Recently, someone asked me what they might need to create a creative agency / design business on a shoestring budget.  I’ve come up with 5 things you should do / consider if you’re going to start a business.

1. You’re going to need an income.

Start a Design Business - IncomeYou cannot start a design business if you can’t pay the bills. Clients will come, but it takes time to build a base where you can survive. When you first start, if you don’t have savings to start the business, you will have to have a job or some form of funding. Consider asking friends and family to help you, but don’t automatically expect a positive reaction.

Many of the people who care about you may not understand your entrepreneurial spirit, and in their concern for you, may instead try to encourage you to further your career rather than starting a fresh design business or going freelance. If your heart is set on starting your business, you should be ready to handle the naysayers.

If you’re lucky, and they fund you, great! If not, then consider getting a part time job while you build your business.

When we started Arcturus Creative, I had to work 3 days out of the week for a company and spend evenings and the other 4 days of the week working on my creative agency. Once the business picked up enough, I left the job. Even so, it was a struggle at times. At one point, my car was repossessed and I ended up selling almost everything I owned to not get evicted. Even so, if given the opportunity I’d do it again.  Today, we have enough revenue for my partner and I to comfortably survive, and we have a few employees working for us as well. It took about 6 months to get to that point, but once it did, things got better quickly.

2. The best way to get design business is to network.

Starting a design business - Mineh Ishida logo project

To help promote my design business, I created some logos for my personal logo project and posted them to social media.

Tell everyone you know what you do and develop and refine a good pitch. Have lunch with everyone who could be a good client and just talk about what you’re trying to achieve and learn about their businesses.Create some designs and start posting them to your social networks.

I created the Logo Project and posted it to my social network. Not a day later someone asked me to design a logo for them.  Leverage your online contacts and take advantage of Twitter, Facebook, Linkedin, Instagram and Pinterest. 

In addition, join some local organizations.  Chambers of commerce and business networking groups can be very beneficial.  I joined local business groups and the Tampa Club, which is a local dining club. That took a few hundred dollars, but I’ve gotten multiple clients from it.

You can also attend networking events, but remember that all networking events are not created equal. They seem to be divided into two groups. Networking events that have young professionals looking for job opportunities and career growth, and those that attract business owners. Try to find the ones populated by business owners and executives. Sometimes, educational seminars dedicated to business owners may be more beneficial for networking than dedicated networking functions.

3. Design a good website and business cards.

Start a Design Business - Web SiteYou’re going to need credibility. Design a website that shows off your past projects and some of the philosophy behind each design. It will give you credibility.  Having a professional presence is absolutely critical.  After all, you’re trying to show people the impact that good design can have on their business.  Would you trust a designer who had a bad website?

Your business cards MUST STAND OUT. You’re a designer. Having average business cards is absolutely unacceptable. Even above average doesn’t cut it. People have to look at your cards and marvel at how unique they are.  If your cards don’t have something unique about them, try again.  Paper, weight, shape, print style… There are any number of ways to create a card that is unforgettable. Spend some time and money to do it right!

4. Do some free projects in the beginning.

Start a Design Business - Do some free workIn the beginning, no one knows who you are or what your business is.  They have no reason to trust you.  One easy way to solve this is to do some comp work (free). Find people in the community who have a lot of connections. Offer to do a free project for them that is high visibility. Make sure you do an amazing job with it, and handle everything professionally. When you’re done, if you’ve done well, they will spread the word. The more you do this, the larger your sphere of influence will grow.

Often, we would start with a small very low cost or free project with a client, and once they trusted us, they would give us a larger project or sign up with a retainer for services.

Don’t fall into the trap of doing this too often though.  People won’t take you seriously and your new design agency will fail if you’re doing too much free work as an established business. A lot of people will ask you to do work “for exposure.” Just be polite and decline unless it’s a project that will really get your design work in front of the right people.

5. Give back to the community

Start a Design Business - Give Back to the CommunityFind some non-profits in the area to help out. Many of them need design and marketing help. Make sure it’s a cause you believe in and offer your services. Making sure your business stands for something and is involved in the community is a very important part of growing your business. Remember, business is about relationships, and everyone loves a person / business who takes action and follows through on what they say.  If you can honestly say that you care about causes and follow through by doing some volunteer work, it will only help you grow.

Starting a new design business is quite the adventure.  There are so many reasons that a design business is a great venture to start right now.  I really have enjoyed the last year of building Arcturus Creative, and am thankful to have had the opportunity to do so.  Just remember that it won’t be easy, but it’s a very rewarding path.  Feel free to message me if you need have any questions about how we started our business.

Design Logo Project

Mineh Ishida – Logo Project v003

May 16, 2015 | by Mineh Ishida
Mineh Ishida Logo Project 003 - Featured

Mineh Ishida Logo Project:

This week I continue the Mineh Ishida Logo Project by exploring polygon logo styles.  For those of you unfamiliar with this project, I committed to creating a new logo every week.  The goal of this project is for me to expand my logo and branding styles and to improve in branding design.  First Mineh Ishida logo project post can be found here (v001). 

Project Considerations

  1. In Japanese, Mineh means summit or mountain peak.
  2. The brand should be for one of my specialties: Marketing, Web Design, Graphic Design, Photography, DJing, etc.
  3. Each logo I create must be in a new style.
  4. I will spend no more than 2 hours on each project.  The goal is not to create masterpieces, but to try new things.

Mineh Ishida: Logo v003

Last week I went with a minimalistic monochrome logo.  This week, I’m very excited because I’ve always wanted to try my hand at polygon logos. I don’t know if I stuck to the 2 hour limit for this one because I designed it on an airplane between Dallas and Cleveland. It didn’t take very long though, so I assume it was close to the two hour limit.

I created this weeks logo in illustrator using the pen tool. In order to simulate a 3d mountain using 2d polygons, I used color shading and amorphous polygons with no particular order.  I first outlined the mountain shape to create a solid polygon.  Then I created vertical jagged lines within the shape.  Off of those lines, I forked them towards the bottom.  When satisfied with the basic lines and shapes, I then connected them with line segments to create the final polygons. Once everything was done, I saved a copy of the completed outline, and then divided the main polygon using the extra lines. This method gave me the separated polygons I needed to fill with colors.

All of the colors came from the same shade of blue, but using different saturation and luminosity levels, I was able to create the colors I needed.  My goal was to simulate lighting coming from the right side of the logo, so I used lighter shades on that side.

I used “Museo Sans Rounded Thin” for the font because I wanted a clean modern font with approachability.


I really enjoyed this project.  The hardest part of doing it was getting the “divide” operation to work properly, and to select the color palette.  Once those things were figured out, the project went very smoothly. If I were to do this again, I would setup the color palette in advance rather than figuring it out on the fly.

Mineh Ishida Logo Project v003

Mineh Ishida Logo Project v003

Design Logo Project

Mineh Ishida – Logo Project v002

May 9, 2015 | by Mineh Ishida
Mineh Ishida - Logo Project v002 - featured

Mineh Ishida Logo Project:

I commit to designing one logo per week.  I will spend no more than 2 hours for research, concept and design.  The goal of this project is to expand my versatility in style and capabilities as a brand designer.  The following were established as the guidelines for this project.  First Mineh Ishida logo project post can be found here (v001). 

Project Considerations

  1. My name in Japanese means summit or mountain peak.
  2. The brand should be for one of my specialties: Marketing, Web Design, Graphic Design, Photography, DJing, etc.
  3. Each logo I create must be in a new style.
  4. I will spend no more than 2 hours on each project.  The goal is not to create masterpieces, but to try new things.

Mineh Ishida: Logo v002

Last week, I explored a modern retro style using subdued colors.  Today, I decided to go minimalistic with line art and strong geometric shape.  I want the focus today to be more on the brand mark, and less on the name.  To continue the theme using mountains, I decided that the M from Mineh could be abstracted into a mountain shape by skewing the heights of the peaks.  I created movement and depth in the logo by creating breaks, that give the illusion that the line overlaps itself.  This draws the eye from left to right through the logo.

I chose to go with a monochome color palette because I really wanted this to be as minimalistic as possible.  Focus entirely on the shape and lines, and not on the color.

The typography is very simple.  I used Gotham and kept it very clean an undistracting. Rendering the “Mineh Ishida” in all caps further reduces the unique shapes of the letters which further reduces the impact of the name in the logo.


At the end of the 2 hours, I wanted to keep playing with line thicknesses.  I felt like the text too closely mirrored the shapes in weight and  structure, and I wanted to further explore what different typographical treatments would do to the logo.  I do feel like I captured the essence of this excercise however, and made a line art logo that also represents mountains in a very abstract form.

Mineh Ishida - Logo Project v002 - Minimalist Line Art Logo

Mineh Ishida – Logo Project v002 – Minimalist Line Art Logo – (Mockup Provided by Graphic Burger)



Design Logo Project

Mineh Ishida Logo Project – project v001

May 2, 2015 | by Mineh Ishida
Mineh Ishida Logo Project v001 - business card mockup

I’ve decided to start a project.  For the next year, I plan to design one logo a week.  I plan to spend no more than 2 hours for research, concept and design.  The goal of this project is much like a 365 photo project; I hope to expand my styles and capabilities as a brand designer.

Mineh Ishida: My Name & Brand

To start with, I figured I’d use my own name: Mineh Ishida and create a personal brand.  After all, if I can’t create a logo for myself, the person I know the most about, how can I expect to brand for other companies?

Project Considerations

  1. My name in Japanese means summit or mountain peak.
  2. The brand should be for one of my specialties: Marketing, Web Design, Graphic Design, Photography, DJing, etc.
  3. Each logo I create must be in a new style.
  4. I will spend no more than 2 hours on each project.  The goal is not to create masterpieces, but to try new things.

First Project: v001

Here is my first attempt at creating a logo for the Mineh Ishida brand.  I created it towards the creative marketing side, and decided to go with a modern vintage approach.  I chose subdued cool colors and simplistic graphics because I wanted people to feel the brand was relaxed and trustworthy.   I created two variations on the same mark so I could see how the two different typestyles contrasted.  I found myself liking the more ornate version more than the simpler font.


The 2 hour time limit proved to be more challenging than I thought.  I feel like the logos still need refinement and spacing fixes, but considering this is the first time I’ve done this project, I’m happy with the results.  If I had more time, I would clean up the mountain graphic, and refine the color palette further.

Mineh Ishida Logo Project v001

Mineh Ishida Logo Project v001