Beauty of Experience Design

Before deciding to write this blog post, I started making comments on my Twitter feed and my Facebook page about my love of intelligent experience design. According to Wikipedia, experience design is the practice of designing products, processes, services, events, and environments with a focus placed on the quality of the user experience and culturally relevant solutions, with less emphasis placed on increasing and improving functionality of the design.

Um…. What?
OK, yes, it’s true… what they said. I’m focusing more on the “environments” part of that definition. To me, experience design is a well-thought out space that communicates the meaning of an event, time or place through visuals and typography that creates an impact on the viewer. For my fellow Nashvillians, think of Bicentennial Mall. Every time I visit this park, my stomach does flips. If you’ve never been, let me lay it out for you…

map used by National Folk Festival

In celebration of the 200th anniversary of Tennessee’s statehood, the city of Nashville fashioned a commemorative park to honor all of the achievements, people of significance and  historical facts about this state. This park is very long and narrow. Starting on the south side of the park closest to the city lies a beautiful, detailed map of the state which rests in the shadows of the State Capitol building.

The designer used patterns, texture and colors to detail the differences between the waterways and highways, the counties and the cities, etc. To commemorate the history of the state, a series of small stands exhibit more details of the city including its topography, rivers, settlement, etc. Traveling under the railway bridge pavilion is a water installation showcasing each one of Tennessee’s major rivers. During warm weather, these fountains will shoot straight up. The falling water lands on the surrounding concrete creating the sound of rushing water.

Walking on the west side of the park (my favorite side), on the left of the walkway are large marble towers spaced evenly down the length of the park representing a decade in the state’s history starting with 1786.

On the right, are quotes and descriptions of what was happening in Tennessee during that time. Some particular parts of this wall (which is only about 4′ high) are at the year 1786 when Tennessee became a state. The initial installation at the wall was a drinking fountain and the words, “Drink to Statehood” are blasted in the marble surrounding it. Since the flood in Nashville in May 2010, this fountain had to be removed due to damaged water pipes.

Continuing down the wall, soon after passing the year 1846, the wall cracks and marks Tennessee’s separation from the Union during the Civil war and the divide of the North and South.

The copy at the separation point mentions Tennessee as being the last state to secede from the Union. In 1866, Tennessee was then the first state to rejoin the Union, so the wall mends the break and continues on down to 1986. Along the way, it discusses how the Tennessee Volunteers, Oprah, the involvement in World War II, and many other quotes and facts about the state.

At this point, the visitor reaches the gem of the park, the Carillon Ring. A carillon is a set of bells in a tower which is played by using a keyboard or automatic mechanism similar to a piano (thank you Webster). These bells symbolize the music of Music City. At their feet lay the names of the great musician who were born in Nashville.

This is the northern most point of the park. If you turn and continue south along the other side of the park, you’ll see how the state is divided into three sections: East Tennessee, Middle Tennessee and West Tennessee. While walking down this sidewalk, you will pass the names of every county in the state surrounded by the state’s tri-star emblem.

…. So why the detail about Bicentennial Mall?
Recently, a new experience design park was opened which I am dying to visit: the 9/11 Memorial Park. Without going into too much detail about the factual significance behind this park, just understand that I think it is the most heart-felt, inspiring, beautiful way the city of New York could commemorate the victims of that day. Both waterfalls lay in the footprint of the original Twin Towers and are surrounded by beautiful shrubbery. To understand more about the meaning behind the park, read this from the designer himself.

Now that I’ve shared two of my favorite experience design environments, I’m curious. Is there a space near you that’s similar to these two incredible locations? Please comment below and share.


September 28, 2011 at 4:42 pm Leave a comment

Worky Work, Busy Bee

My Dear Blog, Loyal Readers and New Visitors,

I apologize for my absence from informing and entertaining you with all things related to graphic design and the wonderful design world. There is no excuse for my absence other than the success my 2011 marketing plan has already had to increase my current workflow. However, this does not acquit me from continuing to write on this page.

Please forgive me for neglecting you. I promise that I will do better from here on out.

February 14, 2011 at 11:15 pm Leave a comment

Happy Birthday to Me!

…not me, Amy. Me 4th Leaf Design Studio!

1 year ago today was the first day that 4th Leaf Design Studio started! I can’t believe how far this little idea has come in 1 year! I have learned so much about running a business, had my ups and downs and just keep pushing forwards.

This coming year brings so many new and exciting things for the business. The most important is time. One of the mistakes I made last year was wearing myself too thin by becoming involved in so many time-consuming organizations. This year, I’m taking a step back and will be much more critical about what I decide to do with my time. In order to get my business to continue to grow, I’ve decided to attend The Simple Plan by Sage Wedding Pros. Here, I will be able to finally write out my entire business plan to help me stay on track with all of my goals. We will also discuss the possibility of my company dividing into two: one for the identity biz and one for the stationery side. This is going to be exciting!

Also, the website will finally be posted this year! Hopefully before the beginning of 2011! We’ll be increasing the items we offer on the Etsy Shop and hopefully will start having a few pieces sold in stores for your convenience. For the identity side of the business, I’m revamping the way we create your entire identity which includes a manual on how to use all the new information you’re given.

This is a very exciting time for 4th Leaf Design Studio, and I feel so blessed to have so many great people helping me throughout this process. Thanks also to all the people who took a chance on me this year. I hope your experience still encourages you to recommend other people my way!

November 9, 2010 at 9:04 pm 2 comments

GS: Logo, Identity & Brand Part 3: IDENTITY

Moving on with the Graphically Speaking (GS) posts about the differences between your logo, identity and brand…

Last time, we went into specifics about your logo. We discussed how 4th Leaf Design Studio divides logos into three categories to help with planning a company’s image: Typographic, Lock-Up and Crest. There is not one type of logo that is better or more effective than the next one; it’s just a matter of what logo style works best for your company to ultimately create your brand. Now we’re onto your identity…

When someone speaks about a company’s identity, what are they actually talking about?
They are referring to all those little characteristics that are unique to your company and distinguish you from your competitors. Basically, your identity encompasses all of the elements that make up the visual representation of your company: colors, typefaces, images and their usage, graphics, grids, patterns and, of course, your logo!

I really like the way the graphic design mega company, Pentagram, describes identities and identity designers:
Identities are “a unique combination of reputation, name, culture, manner and values. Identity design represents these qualities and in doing so adds something to them. The identity designer has to become intricately involved in the group in order to understand and thus influence its presented image.”

To help you understand large-scale applications of what an identity is, I’m going to walk you through a simplified explanation of the University of Cincinnati‘s Standards as the main example.


Your logo encompasses the largest portion of your identity. It dictates the rest of the images, graphics, etc. When designing your logo, your designer will be thinking of the many possible usage of your logo. There will be some instances where you will be able to use your logo in a vertical format, and at times, a horizontal layout will be best.

standard logo layout : horizontal

alternate layout : vertical

Another example of this is the logo options for the New York City Ballet:

The designer will also give you standards on how to use it. The most important one of these to be aware of is the “safe space.” A logo’s safe space is the area designated to the readability of the logo. It’s a space that surrounds the ENTIRE logo where no other images, graphics, words, etc can penetrate. This is typically some proportion of the logo:
There will also be standards on how your logo is to be used on different colors:
SIDE NOTE: your designer should ALWAYS give you a solid black and white version of your logo! If you do not like your logo in black and white, you’ll never be fully happy with it in color. Besides, you will not always be able to use full color.

A solid identity standard will also ways that your logo should NEVER be used:

You should also be aware as to the minimum size that you designer recommends for your logo. Because of the type, some logos are able to be smaller than other. In this case, the designers for UC’s logo require the printed logo to be a minimum width of one inch and the digital image to be a minimum width of 125 pixels.


One of the main reasons I wanted to show you the UC identity standards is because of how they dictate their graphics, patterns and textures. All of the swoops you see associated with the university all derive from the logo itself:

Samples of the swoops:


As you all know, your colors are just as much a part of your identity as your logo. You probably even know your company’s specific PMS (Pantone Matching System) color to be used on all your materials! If you don’t have a PMS color, your color can not be guaranteed by a printer, so be sure to get one!

True brands have their standard primary colors (which are usually the colors that make up the logo) and secondary colors at least. Secondary colors are hues the designer feels best compliment the primary colors:



Obviously, UC’s color palette is quite extensive. They need to be able to incorporate and decipher many disciplines of study, campuses, buildings, etc. Not all color palettes have to be this elaborate. Take mine at 4th leaf Design Studio:



We’ll get into the differences later! 🙂

The lettering you choose for your business is just as much a part of your identity. Think about it, if you send out one memo in Times New Roman, and another one in Arial or even Georgia, they will look like they came from totally different companies. It’s crucial to know what typefaces are associated with your company, how they are used, etc. Many companies incorporate both a sans-serif for less formal pieces and serif type for more formal announcements. When the sans-serif and serif typefaces are used together creatively, they can create extremely beautiful pieces. Here are UC’s type choices.

I know this was a lot to take in, but trust me, it was just a short explanation on what identities really are. Many companies have thick manuals explaining the elements of their identities and how to use them. Here are a few more short examples of identities courtesy of Pentagram.

Black & White Ball
Notice the grid pattern formed for their marketing material. This is part of their identity as well.

The Metropolitan Opera
Notice the red and how it’s continued into the photographs for emphasis.



November 3, 2010 at 9:06 pm 1 comment

…and I’m back!

Sorry for the absenteeism for the end of last week! I’m proud to report that it was well worth it as my team won the 2010 Division 1 AA State Volleyball Championship! I’m so proud of the 13 varsity players and the remaining 8 JV cheerleaders that allowed this season to be such a success! These girls, especially the 3 seniors have been through a lot. In their 4 years, they have had 5 head coaches! If you’ve ever played a sport, I’m sure you know how difficult that can be! All of the girls persevered through it and are now State Champions! If you want to attempt to watch the final match, check it out!

On Friday’s final match, they played the defending champions Red Bank High School from Chattanooga, TN. It was a repeat match from last year, except the outcome was completely different! The Page High School Lady Patriots went undefeated in their post-season play winning 27 straight sets! This is a remarkable feat! I seriously couldn’t be prouder of these girls and wish them all the best in the coming travel season!

Head Coach: Jessica Enderle
Assistant Coaches: Kate Walker & you know me!

Please stay tuned this week as I continue to Graphically Speaking section about logos, identities and brands! Next up: Identities!

November 1, 2010 at 7:31 pm Leave a comment

Gone, Gone Away

I know many of you are waiting to read the next Graphically Speaking (GS) post about identities and how they relate to your company. Sorry! It will be coming next week, I promise! This week is jammed packed with many identity designs, website layouts, invitations and save-the-date creations. PLUS, this is the last week of my Page High School 2010 Volleyball Season and, WE’VE MADE THE STATE TOURNAMENT! I’m so proud of the girls so the next couple days, I will be living in Murfreesboro, TN coaching and cheering on my high school team to the state championship.

If you’re able to come or interested in seeing some great volleyball, the finals will be tomorrow at 4:00PM at The Murphy Center on MTSU’s campus.


October 28, 2010 at 3:19 pm Leave a comment

GS: Logo, Identity & Brand Part 2: LOGO

Last week on GS, we discussed the general differences between a logo, an identity and a brand. In the next few posts, I will dissect each of these words more in-depth.

You remember this image to help illustrate how they all relate:

Today, we will start to discuss these in more detail, starting with the triangle: LOGOS.
A logo, or logotype, is a graphic representation or mark symbolizing a company name, trademark, abbreviation, etc often uniquely designed for ready recognition. (Source)

At 4th Leaf Design Studio, to reach a better understanding of what our clients want for their logo, I have categorized logos into three groups. Almost all logos can easily fit within one of these; shown in no particular order.
PLEASE NOTE: I have no affiliation with any of the represented companies. I am just using their logos for examples. These views strictly of 4th Leaf Design Studio’s.


Typographic logos are basically a company or brand’s name spelled out with a clever use a type. In many cases, the designer will alter a typeface to fit the look the company wants or they may combine typefaces to create another feeling. Below are several samples of typographic logos.

Notice how the designer for the FedEx logo strategically altered the typeface to create a forward moving arrow between the E and x. The Coca-Cola logo has been around for decades with very minor changes. The elaborate script typeface, change in baseline (where the bottom of the letters sit) height and the differences in the C’s create an interesting composition in the logo that has made it timeless. The baseline changes and mixed typography of the Ebay logo emphasizes how approachable and playful the site can be.

2– Lock-Up Logos (or Marks)

These are logotypes that use a combination of a graphic (be it an image, a ligature or some other graphic) and the typographic representation of the company. The reason these logos get their own category is because they are recognized both as a lock-up and separately by each individual piece. A successful lock-up logo considers the proportion of the mark to the size of the type associated. When a brand with a lock-up logo becomes successful, they can easily use just their image without NEEDING the adjoining type spelling out the name.

Take Nike for instance. You recognize this as the company logo:
… but because of their wonderful marketing and recognizable graphic, you also understand this to be the same company:
Many companies are recognizing a use for having a lock-up logo. Nike simply brands each of their shoes, hats, and any other active wear by using just their mark. This saves a lot of real estate on their items for other graphics.

Another unique notion about these lock-up logos is their ability to be altered to fit any orientation. They can be in a vertical layout, a horizontal and as just the graphic (as discussed above). NBC does a great job of making sure their logo is used in whatever orientation best fits.

3– Crest Logos

I don’t just mean logos that look like something plastered on a knight’s shield, although the Lamborghini logo is a nice representation of that! These logos succeed in communicating everything about the company all combined in its own holder.

There is not one particular shape that is the best to use, but rather you use the shape that best fits what you’re trying to communicate. If you remember several years back, the UPS logo went under a make-over.

The reason this make-over was so widely accepted is because it kept the same integrity of the original logo and the successes it had while giving the new logo a more modern / streamlined look.

The NFL’s logo was also simplified recently. In the past, it had a star to represent each team in the league. It made the logo dated and incredibly busy. Now the NFL shield is a much simpler version of the original highlighting the 8 divisions of the league rather than every team.



As a business owner, it’s important to understand that your logo is your customer’s first real impression of who you are. Be sure to have a logo that represents the formality of your company, the approachability of who you are and a general concept of what you do. Understand the style of logo that will also work best for you. For example, if you’re a photographer needing to watermark your images, you may want to have your name spelled out so it is clear that the image belongs to you. This “little” image is your stamp that will go on EVERYTHING you do. What does your logo say about you? Are you happy with the way your logo represents you as a company? Will your clients be able to recognize your logo as a stand-out amongst your competitors?

Now, if you ask anyone what their company’s logo is, I’m sure they will be able to show it to you correctly. That’s great! But the question is: Do you know how to use your logo correctly? To learn more about understanding how to use your logo, check back for the discussion about identities.

October 19, 2010 at 6:06 pm 3 comments

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