You Are What You Eat: A Design Intervention

moc1Horrific global drought and famine by 2050. Mutant viral superbugs decimating our livestock. Crippling obesity with some diabetes thrown in just for fun.

I love making this stuff look good.


Quite often I get presented with a project that poses a difficult design challenge. This time it was for Menus of Change, a conference developed by the Culinary Institute of America and the Harvard School of Public health. The conference’s initiative is to present solutions to our world’s most pressing food issues. You know, all the stuff you’re ignoring while you fill your brain space with another episode of the Kardashians.

Though some of the subjects will make you think the 4 Horsemen of the Apocalypse are already here, not everything presented was doom and gloom. It’s one thing to know that we will not be able to feed our population by 2050 the same way we do currently. It’s another thing to communicate how we can bring about change to secure our future.

The subject matter is incredibly sobering. Stay up at night knowing that the drought in California is more horrific than you can imagine. But if we change things now we won’t need to recycle our urine like they did in Dune. The solutions presented by the conference are inspirational. And motivational. And Exciting. Why not develop a brand that conveys just that?

So I created an identity that focused on some of the sustainable solutions to our current world food problems. Presented as vibrant, rich, still life photos, a simple ingredient like a mushroom is transformed into something beautiful and exotic – far more appetizing than a slab of red meat. And if you hadn’t guessed, cows are slowly destroying our overall health one medium-rare bite at a time. The seriousness of our situation is conveyed by setting the images against a dark background, giving the elements the certain gravitas it needed.

The takeaway is that just because something is serious, it doesn’t need to be boring. It can still be beautiful and influential. In this instance, the design subtly communicated that change can be exciting. Think about that this weekend while you grill your oversized antibiotic-laced steak. Next to your excess nitrogen fertilized watered turf grass that’s destroying our wells and aquifers. As you feed your child carbonated diabetes in a can.

Happy Summer Everyone!

A Plate Full of Infographics

principles1Find a new way to tell your story when no one is listening. 

Conveying a message can be frustrating as hell. You have extremely important ideas that must be shared. Or you have a killer product that will change everyone’s lives. But guess what? No one really cares. It’s tough to get people to listen when they could be watching cats shoot zombies in the head.

What if you could get them to pay attention for that precious 8 seconds? If you haven’t guessed by now, graphic design does wonders to communicate a message that would otherwise be ignored.

In my last newsletter, I mentioned that I did some work for the Menus of Change conference, a joint initiative by the Culinary Institute of America and the Harvard School of Public Health. In particular, they had a need to communicate a set of “Principles of Healthy, Sustainable Menus.” These principles serve as a platform for those in the food industry to create more effective dishes, be more sustainable, and still remain profitable. J Wright Design developed this illustrative solution to a potentially bland subject matter. This infographic, the cornerstone of the conference, was printed poster size for the attendees and distributed digitally worldwide.

By using infographics, rather than a simple list, we were able to transform the content into something that was not only enjoyable to explore, but much more memorable in the long run. That is, until the attendees turned into zombies and began eating human brains. Which would be, after all, much more eco-friendly in the long run. But I digress…

Don’t forget the power of infographics for your next project. Get your voice heard. Tell your story with interesting visuals that people won’t forget.  And fill up your plate with some good graphic design.

Endurance + Design


The link between winning, puking and some killer graphics. 

This weekend, you’ll find some of the world’s toughest athletes competing in the Ironman World Championship at Kona. Anyone who’s ever competed in an Ironman will tell you it might be the hardest day of their lives, both mentally and physically. Indeed, these amazing men and women are, let’s be honest here, 100% batshit crazy. But sometimes in madness we find a spark of brilliance. And because I speak about design, I can find many parallels between training for Kona and a finely tuned design program.


Let’s say you’re at a dinner party and you happen to overhear someone who participated in an Ironman. If they don’t fall asleep on you from exhaustion, you’ll notice that they will talk about the race. Not the dedication and singularity that got them to the finish line. That’s because it’s boring as hell. And time consuming. And many times at the expense of our friends and family. Or BECAUSE of friends and family. Either way, without consistency these athletes will simply break down, unable to complete their goal. In design, consistency is absolutely fundamental. You see, if the overall goal of design is to communicate a message, that message must be repeated in the same voice in order to take hold. Every aspect of design – logos, point of sale, cards, mailers, advertising campaigns, online media – must be consistent if it is to function properly. Question yourself everyday if you are communicating a consistent message. If not, fix it.

Have a Plan
Even the most consistent athlete must have a plan to achieve their goal. You can run 5 miles every day for the rest of your life, but you’re not going to finish an Ironman. In fact, you’ll probably drown in an ocean of your own tears. So in order to achieve a seemingly impossible goal, you must simply start with a plan. For our athlete, it is a training plan complete with nutrition, weight goals, rest days, etc. Let’s say you want to increase the visibility of your company. Think about how you can achieve that. Should you revamp your website? Refresh your identity? Create a new advertising campaign? Buy Google advertising? Whatever the plan may be, it is critical that your assets be well designed. After all, design is the fundamental point of contact your company (or restaurant, or product, or school) might have. Score some great PR? Awesome, now people are going to your site. Have a great speaking engagement? Awesome, what does your presentation look like? Selling something at Kona this weekend? Well, in that case I’m just jealous. But you get the point. Make a plan, figure out what you need and act upon it.

Know When to Say When
No, this isn’t about the party after a big race. When you are training for an Ironman, you must stick to your plan but also monitor what your body is saying. Sometimes the plan is too hard for your level of fitness. Sometimes, athletes want to do more than what the training plan calls for and find themselves injured. Not knowing when to say when will keep you from your ultimate goal of winning (or, more likely, just finishing) the race.

Businesses with a good design program know when they can do things in-house. But they are also keenly aware of when to hire a design professional. Yes, your junior employee wears hipster glasses, skinny jeans, and sports a super fresh mustache. Yes, he can handle your social media and update a newsletter. But should he? Should he be designing the newsletter? Should he be making design decisions that will go out to thousands of potential customers? Just because someone can use Photoshop doesn’t mean they can do the work of a designer with years of experience. Become aware of the work you should handle in-house and hire designers to do what they do best.

Timelines: Get to the Finish Line
You can’t train for Kona in three weeks and expect to do well. Or finish for that matter. Or even book a hotel room. Actually, if you have that attitude you’d never qualify for Kona anyway. But I digress. If you have a design project and you want a good result, set a realistic timeline. Know that time spent creating is time well spent. Panic attacks and good design do not go hand in hand. So plan accordingly and you will get the best performance out of your designer.

That’s the magic formula. Average people finish amazing feats of endurance with consistency, a plan, knowing their limits and setting the right timeline. Same thing with a good design program. It’s not rocket science. It’s just hard work and a lot of sweat.

Good luck to everyone in Kona! 

Infographics – Menus of Change

The Menus of Change conference, a joint initiative by the Culinary Institute of America and the Harvard School of Public Health, needed to communicate a set of “Principles of Healthy, Sustainable Menus.” These principles serve as a platform for those in the food industry to create more effective dishes and still remain profitable.  J Wright Design developed this illustrative solution to a potentially bland subject matter. This infographic, the cornerstone of the conference, was printed poster size for the attendees and distributed digitally worldwide.



Menus of Change / Culinary Institute of America & Harvard School of Public Health

This annual conference promotes the business of healthy and responsible food choices amongst those in food industry. As a major educational platform, the Menus of Change conference needed a powerful brand identity to inspire action. Over the past three years, J Wright Design worked closely with the Culinary Institute of America to create annual reports, infographics, signage and stage environments to communicate their message.



Manifest Soul

J Wright Design was called in to develop this Logo and Brand Identity for Manifest Soul, a healing, meditation and end-of-life therapy in New York. This unique form of individualized therapy focuses on developing the inner soul offering a greater sense of well-being.


Design is like Cycling: The More You Suffer the Prettier the Pictures


I’ve been out on my bike for over three hours now, grinding my way back home after flatting-out on a shattered indigo Bud-light Platinum bottle.

It’s another pale grey New York why-am-I-living-here day when I approach the section of road that turns upward, sharply, and back into the peninsula where I live. I’m tired. I’m beaten.

Halfway up the hill, fat white pancakes fall from the sky, forcing my pace, and it’ll be minutes before I start skidding out all over the road. I start to laugh at the absurdity of it all, wondering why I’m even out here in the first place. But I know why. It’s the only way. And it’s beautiful.

Like the Yogi-of Bayonne, Robert Tepper, tells us: There’s “No Easy Way Out“. Every day I discuss with clients short term band-aid design solutions because, let’s face it, money is always a consideration. And I don’t blame them either. These days, it’s very easy to hire someone to knock out a website and call it a day. Slap it together and go about your business. The question then becomes a matter of how long can you fool your customers. Is your company a product of Design Triage?

You see, the ideal solution for any company is to have a long lasting and mutually beneficial relationship with your designer. It’s not about a logo. It’s not about a website. It’s about expressing the same voice, throughout all media, throughout any platform. Let your product or restaurant build a relationship with your consumer. Build their trust. Enough with the social networking shortcuts. They do nothing if you don’t have VALUE. This relationship starts and ends with design.

It’s not going to be easy either. It takes dedication and endurance. Building your business isn’t a sprint. Communicating a message isn’t accomplished by a slapped together brochure or by the number of Facebook fans you might have. It’s all of it. Everything. And a good designer can help define a path and a plan, much like a good coach.

Numerous children’s tales have been told about the wisdom of this approach, yet few really listened.  The Ant and the Grasshopper. The Tortoise and the Hare. Sometimes the immediacy of an event, the limitations of a budget, slow sales or other inevitable things force us to take the easy path. But I like the Way of the Tortoise. My smooth headed resemblance to the Testudinidae aside, I have yet to experience a client of mine fail taking the longer, considered, and much harder route. With regards to design, the message is always communicated faster, stronger and with more sincerity than the alternative.

But man is the work worth it. The suffering is worth it.

And, as you will see, so is the view.




Freeze Your Butt Off – A Design Resolution

It’s 26 degrees out.

I can’t help but think that going out and riding my bike in this weather is just about the dumbest thing a man can imagine. For obvious reasons. But if I want to become better at cycling there’s only one thing I can do. Ride. And the only way to get going is to GET GOING.

“But it’s freezing out here.” SHUT UP. GO.

“The gym is nice this time of year.” SHUT UP. GO.

And so I went. For 2 1/2 hours I couldn’t feel my toes. My water bottles turned to slushies. My friend on the ride – who used to be a marathon runner – talked about how his -um- “parts” – got frost bite in weather just like this. The ride was brutal. But it wasn’t as bad as I imagined. In fact, it was undeniably fun. Most importantly, just getting out there put me one step closer to my goal for this yearIt’s not going to be easy, but anything worth doing isn’t supposed to be.


So now, back at the office, we find the holiday parties are over and the thoughts of getting some serious things done at work are looming large. What will we accomplish this year? How can we achieve our goals as efficiently as possible? More importantly, how will we get it all done?


Many of us – myself included – find ourselves overwhelmed by the thought of a new project looming over our heads. My own site, which gravely needs a redesign, hasn’t been worked on much in about a year. That’s right. A YEAR. I do this for a living and I find it tough to find the time.

So what happens? It sits. I do other client’s design work and help them (quite often) to be more successful. I try to balance my time with family, friends and other non-work related things. I THINK about writing an article or blog post, and thinking about it is “good enough” for now. After all, I have a ton of other work on my plate so it can wait.

So the work remains. And so does stagnation. This is the status quo.

And so it goes for almost all my clients. There is not a single client that I am aware of that could not benefit from targeted design work in the new year. Many of my amazing clients – and you guys are amazing – have waited on projects in 2012 for countless reasons. The economy stinks. Things are busy. “We’ll do it right after we do something else first.” There are a million reasons and a million excuses.

The fact remains that the more you work on your design, the better you will communicate your message. And this almost always results in more business, more revenue, more exposure and, well, more MORE. So if you don’t like how your corporate assets look, let’s change it. Don’t like your logo, advertising or other assets? Let’s change it. Is your website old? LET’S CHANGE IT.

Maybe that first step won’t be fun. It’s not supposed to be. It’s rare that the easy way ever works out. At least redesigning things can be more fun that other aspects of running a business.

So get out there and freeze your ass off. Better yet, give me a call to help you though it. I’m always up for a good ride.

Iron Chef Morimoto – Official Website

If you’ve ever seen the iconic cooking show Iron Chef on the Food Network, then you’re already familiar with Iron Chef Masaharu Morimoto. One of the masters of Japanese fusion, Chef Morimoto has become a household name with restaurants spanning the globe. JWD developed Chef Morimoto’s Official Site to match his style of cuisine – a fusion of flavors, color and surprise.

Lucchese – Branding, Packaging, Identity & Design

Lucchese, the legendary equestrian and western boot company, since 1883, turned to J Wright Design for logo design, packaging, branding, site design, and a whole slew of other aspects to help create a face to this fantastic product line.

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