Projects

Huntco Rebranding Partnership

Building an online product catalog through rendering

In another enjoyable partnership, CCD teamed with independent brand builder Heather Cummings in a radical makeover the image of Huntco, a longtime Portland manufacturer and distributor of outdoor accessories.

Over the span of 30 years, Huntco had accrued hundreds of original designs for bike racks, benches and other outdoor furnishings.  CCD helped Cummings leverage 270 existing CAD models to compile an online catalog of photorealistic renderings.  It is one of many cases where rendered images is proving a superior marketing tool than traditional product photography.

The project effectively elevated the image of a blue-collar operation to that of a design-savvy Portland trendsetter.  We’re eager to see what comes next for Huntco!

racks

Method

Realigning a Brand Internationally

The Sig Sauer international program is a recurring project as new shows and new marketing are always in the works.

Con Cor Design was brought in to discuss an interesting project involving the brand Sig Sauer.

CCD was tasked to re-imagine and redesign the Sig Sauer brand so that its international presence would be aligned with its domestic visual language but also to heighten the perceived value at the exhibit level. This meant really digging into the Sig Sauer brand and gaining a fluency about the company.

We started by looking at the history of Sig and how they evolved from Swiss wagon factory to the pinnacle of personal and privatized defense products. To prime the pump of the creative process we selected keywords, built mood-boards with a associated inspiration imagery.

We were then able to created a form language that expressed the feel of the brand and could be extended into all modular elements of an industry show structure.   The resulting design included multiple modular kiosks with an angular yet curved architecture set and a futuristic material palette that complimented its products and demonstrations.

Then, after several rounds of iterations and development, we successfully created a real scalable solution that would fit at all of the different sized shows around the world.

Keywords and Inspiration

CCD has been a contended partner to make the best possible use of budget, space and form.SS-Shows

Projects

Yawning Fish

Heavy metal thunder

Can good design change an object of kitsch into a premiere luxury item?  In partnership with our client Yawning Fish, that’s what we at CCD achieved with the protection bell.

What’s a guardian bell?  In the Easy Rider days, riders hung the tiny trinkets on various parts of the bike to scare away gremlins from causing mischief to the rider in the form of engine malfunction, flat tires, and slick spills.

Even today in the era of suburban-dad Harley collectors, guardian bells are still common and one of many small ways owners personalize their bikes, though the magic thinking has somewhat devolved into jokey guy-kitsch.  With today’s style obsessed and more affluent motorcycle set, Portland metal craft firm Yawning Fish decided it was time to revisit the bell and redefine it as a premiere accessory.

Yawning Fish’s product line of sterling silver boutique bells launched in late 2014 as an online store. Con Cor Design helped Yawning Fish recast the object as a crowning building detail that is bespoke and alluring.  CCD designed, prototyped, refined the product line and set up an efficient custom manufacturing process.

The result is far removed from its origins. The form is modern. A custom message embossment wraps around the waist.   The product is presented in a fabric bag inside a crafted wooden gift box.  And the website touts life-affirming maxims of the road — with no mention of evil gremlins.

Many factors — price, finish, package, story — can increase the perceived value of a luxury item:

The Bells
“The aim is not only to create a quality object but also to build a psychological intimacy with the user.”

Compelling brands need compelling stories

What if you could rewrite the legend of the bell? That’s exactly what we did. By partnering with Black Monk Consulting, we created a new legend of the bell that was not only removing the variable of “bell” as equaling a totem of fear and replacing it with “bell” as a symbol of joy and empowerment but CCD used this as a departure point from all of the basic bells out there that are embossed with company logos and kitsch. Similarly, CCD used this background as a departure point from all of the basic bells out there that are embossed with company logos and other masculine kitsch. The Yawning Fish product line aims to appeal a “high-brow” biker set that responses to elevated design and positive lifestyle messages. We created the “high-brow” biker site.

When you receive your bell. It comes in a pine box cinched in a microfiber polishing pouch then is encompassed in a paper insert that reads the new story.

Yawning Fish Packaging

 

We’ll continue working with this brand to flesh out several other categories of products and continue to raise the bar of what is available to the motorcycle enthusiast. In the meantime, why don’t you head over to YawningFish.com and check out the collection?

 

Method

The Specialist and The Generalist

There is no question that turbulence of the economy can cause irregularity in the design world.  It sucks, and if you want to survive, you need as many tools as possible. In the creative industry you can cast yourself as specialist or a generalist.  There are benefits and drawbacks to each, and each role gives you a particular set of tools.

The Specialist:

Spears of the Specialist

The pros:

You can think of a specialist as an extremely sharp spear:  precise, fluid, and knowledgeable within a given niche.

You want this person on your team to fulfill a particular task because, well, they specialize in what they are doing. And given that there is an implied level of professionalism to the title of “specialist” — you can be sure the work will be (usually) good.

This is Ghost Dog, this is Léon: The Professional, this is Amelia Earhart.

The cons:

Like all overly sharp spears, they are delicate and prone to breakage. Specialists have blinders on, focused on only their narrow set of concerns. They have the curse of knowledge when working in a team.  The specialist has knowledge the others don’t and may accidentally leave out crucial information, assuming that others have the same level of familiarity.

Once the Specialists find a solution to a problem, they also tend to always steer back to that solution for future variations of that same situation. This results in a plateau of creativity, because after all, the Specialist isn’t worrying about creating new solutions, but rather getting the job done as expeditiously as possible.

A great quote from the 1995 movie Ghost In The Shell: ”Overspecialize and you breed in weakness.”

The Generalist:

The Generalist

The pros:

Like it sounds, the Generalist casts a larger net and broadens the probability of gaining opportunities.

In biology, the more diverse a ecosystem is, the more likely it can withstand the shock of catastrophic events and adapt to new circumstances. The same goes for skill sets. If for some reason the Generalist stops getting calls for graphic design help, the multi-disciplined individual can fall back on skills of rendering or illustration.

Being the Generalist is like hedging your bets. John Maeda of RISD and Tim Brown of IDEO have some great thoughts on the matter. We highly recommend the book Glimmer by Warren Berger.  Berger highlights the ideas of “T-shaped” people that start with a particular interest or specialty and wind up broadening their skills as their careers bloom. They ice a topic and explore it deeply (the lower leg of the T) and then move on to the next T.  In this way the Generalist builds an amazingly stable platform to ensure plenty of work from different areas, all the while creating a steady rhythm of new skill adoption and as the career progresses.

While it is much more difficult to tell people “what you do” when the question comes up in social or professional settings, this can be a benefit.   No one knows exactly what what the Generalists do, but bosses get the sense they provide some intangible value to the equation and might hesitate to eliminate them from the team.

The cons:

It is much more difficult to tell people “what you do” when the question comes up in social or professional settings.  The flip side of this advantage becomes a drawback when Generalists attempt to market themselves as professionals. Professional what? People tend to like a nice elevator pitch in introductions.  And they want know they are getting more than a vague notion of value when they open their wallet. This is where Generalists need to lean back on their original specialty. People cling onto titles, so give them one.

Clinging onto titles, especially ones that paint the Generalist into a corner, however, can sometimes be extremely hard to shake.  At Con Cor Design, we’ve had a client that approached us for spatial design work and we got talking about the company itself.  Questions of their infrastructure design surfaced and within a matter of minutes.  CCD was able to deduce that the company was feeling some bizarre growing pains and needed help with identity.  The client was surprised to hear CCD suggest some measure it could provide, not expecting it as part of our normal service offering. The preconceived notions of what our team did at the time created a mental hurtle that we had to overcome.

Inventing multi-syllabic made-up job titles is a very dangerous route to solve the Generalist marketing problem.  It can border on the ridiculous.

The expanding toolkit

In the end, choosing or eschewing specialties comes down to personality.  At CCD, it is in our nature to learn as much as possible and as fast as possible.  This leads us into new areas and new unexpected opportunities.

The CCD approach is to accumulate skills in a lot of contexts.  As a result, we have a broad range of offerings in the way of services.  Following this approach, you’ll come across an industry or topic that you’ll fall in love with and you’ll want (and need) to explore every niche within that niche that it has to offer. Learn more about the chain of design specialties CCD has developed here.

 

 

Method

Adjustments to the Periodic Table of Form

In an in-depth Core77 article, Gray Holland of Alchemy Labs provides a geometrical breakdown of style differences.  Fig. 1 below cites specific examples ranging from the F-22 Raptor to the MacBook Pro.

Gray Holland's Periodic Table of Form
Fig.1

Now while we at CCD agree with Holland that an analysis of form can be a fruit-filled discussion, we have some objections to his take on design forms. The sticking point is not so much in the renderings above in Fig. 1, but in the distinct divide he posits in Fig. 2:

Proposed balance of design and engineering.
Fig.2

Here Holland has divided design and engineering. To even suggest that design is separate from engineering undermines the entire definition of industrial design. It immediately places design in a surface-styling role as opposed to offering legitimacy to the dialectic process of design, research, testing, and so on.  Is he saying that “designers” just make pretty pictures all day? Account managers just jet-set and hob-nob all day, right?

Of course not.  These are occupational stereotypes, and the one of designer is perpetuated whenever the notion of design is characterized as a merely aesthetic function.   CCD’s modified concept of the Yin and Yang is in Fig. 3.

Styling and Engineering are part of design.
Fig.3

A more dialectic and more nuanced conceptualization can be found in Design For The Real World, by designer-educator Victor Papanek.  Papanek illustrated what he called the Function Complex (Fig. 4).  In such, all other variables are contained, from engineering to aesthetics. We need to be careful, as designers, when calling out these roles casually.  A large part of our business includes doing tangible qualitative research and rational analysis of form.

Victor Papanek's Function Complex
Fig.4

Here we bypass the dichotomy of “design” and “engineering” altogether and find a circular iteration of actions and analysis.  Where specialization encounters blind spots, Generalists are always right behind, grabbing on to the loose ends in order to refine the problems.

This process is seemingly indefinite. As Henry Petroski illustrated in The Evolution of Useful Things, the hammer is a perfect example of how form does not follow function, but rather failure. Where one hammer failed in a specialization, another is right there ready to pick up the slack.  He points to the exhaustive variations of hammer types in Ron Baird volume The Hammer: The King of Tools. In his analysis too, aesthetics, use, method, and implementation are all at play together, not separate.

We hope our clarification adds a little more comprehension to the field.  Sure we at CCD enjoy the aesthetic experimentation of making overly large swooping speed forms and clumsy robots for our personal satisfaction, with not a lot of concern for function. And on the other side, we also spend loads of time researching wonky details of material science:  the expansion percentages of plastics, powder-coating technologies, and so forth.  In a real development process both tendencies are important parts of a designer’s work.

Top