Vanguard Ideation Innovative Visual Design Mon, 31 Jul 2017 19:57:38 +0000 en-US hourly 1 57042852 Who owns what? IP 101 Sat, 01 Oct 2016 00:10:55 +0000 When it comes to Intellectual Property (IP) when it comes to design, things can become confusing to a client on what they do and don’t own when it comes to IP. The items that come into question a lot are logos, typefaces, and websites. Generally, it is what you layout/sign in a contract from an agency to what a client owns as their own property. As a recommendation I would say to all current or potential customers to a design shop to ask out in a contract the fine details of IP to make sure they know what they are signing up for and what they can call their own property.

Customers and Clients: Here are a few things to help you know when you own something as your own IP:

  • When you purchase a typeface for an agency to use, you own the rights to use the typeface for print and/or web.
  • Purchasing a WordPress theme with your own business account becomes your property an agency uses to set up for your business.
  • Copyrighting a logo that you’ve paid an agency to sketch, draft, design and create for you is your property to claim as well as the designers for their portfolio.
  • The content you write for an agency to create into a poster, pamphlet, or any collateral is your property
  • Slogan(s) that you write but a designer mocks up/creates are your property legally from a marketing perspective but are also property to the agency’s perspective as portfolio work in talent only.

Some instances that can cause the need for serious discussion come up are when a designer/agency helps a client/customer come up with slogans. Both parties should discuss legalities of the ownership. Mainly with the discussion leaning towards the client discussing how they wish to acquire/own the rights to use the slogan and/or copy to promote their business (in any case written directly by the agency/designer a business needs to secure the rights legally). A client is responsible for purchasing the Trademark Registrations for any and/or all products for their business.

When it comes to websites, clients need to understand that them purchasing Content Management themes and other website assisting assets (SEO plugins, Page building options, etc) are not ways for agencies/designers to add to the total overall cost of the project. They are performed so businesses have purchasing and product licensing rights are with them who need the service to be able to access updates to said themes/assets to keep them up to date. Think of those assets as insurance to make sure that your site is easily updatable and nothing is held against the business in moving forward with said updates.

Freelance designers need to take account for:

  • Clients need to be aware that there are additional costs with purchasing premium themes, typefaces and extra assets for projects
  • Have a proper discussion so a client is not misinformed, always make sure to have things down in writing.
  • It never hurts to ask if you would like to include this piece of work on your own portfolio. Always be sure to credit what you did for a business to show your ownership of your work

It’s a complicated situation for everyone. Things can get lost in translations but it’s always good to have an open communication about IP so that no one feels their own lack of ownership.

For more on copyright issues with Graphic Design read here:

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We made it! Fri, 17 Oct 2014 13:35:08 +0000 Just over a year ago we decided to give up our day jobs and take the risk of starting our own little design shop. We’ve gone through several challenges and many, many sleepless nights in finding clients, building relationships and establishing our credibility not only as designers but as small business owners. Through our efforts in both the #DCTech and FredXchange communities, we’ve been able to make a difference in helping many local like-minded startups, non profits and other businesses in creating great visual products that we can be proud of. 2014 has been a long journey but this is only the beginning for us. We’re ready to take on whatever 2015 brings us and hope to make a bigger difference in our local communities.

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Why Building a Design Community is Important Thu, 26 Jun 2014 19:33:03 +0000 When working with a team or other designers in your own company it’s great to have that constructive feedback to help improve the quality of your work. Having a great feedback structure in your business really helps maximize your creative abilities. Though you do get great feedback from your professional peers, sometimes the feedback can become expected or not as impactful as someone who has not seen your work before. Sometimes the lack of new or original feedback can be a struggle when in the workplace.

A great thing in general to do is find people in your local community either through events, school, or just people you’ve met through your daily life that are in the creative industry. Talking to them and sharing experiences helps better yourself in many different situations. There are always instances were your creative friends can share how they deal with difficult clients, sites where they found new ways to accomplish design tasks, or the latest app that helps your workflow, etc. Unfortunately the area I’m in doesn’t have a large creative community. Having a strong media community helps get young adults and others interested in the field opportunities locally, which Fredericksburg has still yet to grow.

BoHa9YIIcAAhXKtThrough my efforts of FredXchange I’ve met a variety of creative people in the area. Being in an underdeveloped creative community I sought out various avenues to help build a better structure to which locals can meet each other and build either mentorships, creative feedback support, and overall productive networking. With the help of some local designers, we helped create the “FXBG Design” meet-up so that other designers can network with their peers in the area. We’ve had a couple of meet ups so far and we’ve already begun working on a project together to show off all of our combined creative talent; a creative resource site to help promote the talent locally so small businesses and such can contact any creative for work.

With Studio 15 becoming a great place for creatives to meet and help give back to the youth in the area. Within this growing design community, I’ve been able to help out others with their projects and give outside feedback, meet some great people, and help start something that needs to happen in the area. Together, we now have the ability to help build a design standard for the area and since the city is so small to the point were everyone knows everyone, the quality of products locally will only get better over time. Being a city in the middle of marketing heavy Richmond and mobile heavy DC, our own 917089_272158029618595_106042990_nidentity is something that the design community needs to build in order to have a larger presence. Media is everything and it’s reflective of its active or inactive design community.

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Effective Ways in Using Social Media Fri, 11 Apr 2014 13:30:12 +0000 While being apart of Sprelly, I’ve gained a lot of knowledge on using social media effectively in order to help the social status of a profile. Using social media can be very powerful in getting across one or multiple messages but it all matters on how you use it. Being conscience of who your audience is and how to get your attention are really your first steps in making posts directed towards your target market.

Depending on what your business is, it primarily impacts what kinds of social media outlets best suit your needs. Out of the many social outlets including, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Vine, Pinterest, LinkedIn, Meetup and such, it really depends on who or what you’re trying to do with those outlets. It’s great to have a basic general page on Facebook or Twitter just to appear current. Sometimes using Twitter or Facebook might not be the most effective solution for your business needs.

Here I’ve listed the best instances to use each platform:


Facebook is a great community platform to use if you’d like to bring attention to a product your company is launching, a new business a local community wants to support or just in general to start off in getting buzz around your business. Having people share you post is always a great way to build more of a community on Facebook. It is also important that you work on engagement rather than focusing on having x-amount of likes. Having a high amount of organic likes is something you want to strive for, rather than buying them.

Try posting in your Facebook page posts or topics that others will comment on and you can reply to. Being able to engage your audience on multiple occasions is something you want to continue to do on your page. Buying ad space is never a good thing to do on Facebook anymore. Due to the technical issues Facebook has had in recent months it is always a better solution to buy google ads, that way you can use SEO to your advantage with Google Ads.


Being in any sort of technology focused business, Twitter is the best solution for you. Being able to use hashtags, key words, links and such helps you focus your content and being able to be seen by many users. Being forced to keep it short and simple helps when it comes to your information to focus the message to hit the right target audience. For Non Profits, Twitter can be very effective using a communal hashtag to help bring awareness but also to help show the grand scale of a local community.


When your business is visually focused and requires for customers to see your products, for example: food or retail, people become enticed to buy your product when their is a good visual component. By using Instagram you are using something current that your consumers will be drawn to view. Having a lot of followers and using the right hashtags definitely helps build your audience. Instagram is also a great way to showcase your events through social media.


If your a business that mainly focuses on B2B solutions and services, LinkedIn is a great place for you to put content on social media. Anything from news articles and blogs, its definitely will help your professional presence overall. Even though social media outlets like Facebook and Twitter exist, using them might not be as effective but still nice to have in the grander scheme sense where people think your business is current.

Foursquare and Vine

If your business is retail focused it is definitely great to utilize your Foursquare account. Owning that location helps be able to do deals when customers come in to buy products during big holiday sales. The more people are interactive in checking in to your location the more active or “buzzworthy” a place may seem. Reviews also help you see what your customers like the most about the location and its products.

Vine is a great short video platform. The phone app is a quick platform you can use to either tease a coming product, show something that is currently happening to create buzz or just something fun to use in order to be across another social media platform to share on Twitter.

YouTube and Vimeo

Video is a great source of visual material you can post on other social media platforms. Youtube and Vimeo have different instances in which they should be used. If you are creating a video you would like to be professionally seen I’d recommend uploading it to Vimeo. Vimeo is a great platform for showing well crafted videography as more of an art form than just posting a daily Vlog or promotional video.

YouTube does has is perks of being a place to upload a lot of videos if you are a business that does that more frequently. Having video podcasts, instructional videos or small promotional videos are good content to use to place on YouTube. There are good sharing tools on both Vimeo and YouTube in order to engage a larger audience.

Social Media is a powerful tool. With this knowledge I hope you’re able to take it and use it to your advantage to build your business or professional presence across the web, good luck!

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What is Atomic Design? Tue, 04 Mar 2014 14:30:11 +0000

“Atomic design is methodology for creating design systems. There are five distinct levels in atomic design”

At a FredDev Meetup I attend a couple of weeks ago, UX Designer and Enthusiast, Bryan Wengren, presented on the new subject designers & front end developers are trying to adapt when designing anything online or for mobile. The design approach is very systematic and calculated. Each design piece is a part of a whole in the grand scheme of a project.

When the Flat Design movement began to trend, Foundation capitalized on it in their documentation for how the basic elements, or in this case atoms, look as individual pieces. Having that clean simplistic aesthetic and seeing it all broken down is what inspires designers to use Atomic Design.

Atomic Design is broken down into 5 parts, Atoms, Molecules, Organisms, Templates and Pages. Each has its own level of completion and each needs to work together in order to create a holistic design. The complicated part about it is that you’re creating the look not in Photoshop but creating it in code. When you’ve created the atoms of a navigation and put them together you get your first “molecule” of the project.

One problem I feel with this approach is that you aren’t immediately thinking whole picture, just the elements that will be on the site rather than a complete thought out idea. Though the process of thinking about the design aesthetic and functionality of a site is something designers try to accomplish first, it really puts in perspective the fact there are basic elements on every site that need to be present. With atomic design coming into play they do need to work efficiently together with the rest of the elements.

There are many coding decisions that do come into play when creating a fully designed site. Designers sometimes aren’t always fully aware of what can or can’t be done from a development perspective. This struggle becomes a larger problem and with this approach it would probably be easier, from a scalability perspective, to format a design after a known and capable structure is built. But with any site there are going to be functionalities that do repeat throughout the site that should look the same.

With the introduction of SASS (Syntactically Awesome Style Sheets), front-end designers and developers are moving towards nesting their CSS code in order to create better systems when creating a site. I feel that the introduction of SASS is a great way for designers to be able to think about how they are creating a site and how to make it more systematically easy to create and multiple.

Although sites do need to be more systematically designed, there is a need for at least to be some unique component in order to for it to be a unique site. Sites that are just flat out systems become standard and lost in a void of simple sites. I do feel that the flat design movement is helping coders and designers out to move forward in a better direction in making sites more streamline in production, there does need to be a level of unique individuality in the final designed product.

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A Mobile-first Approach Thu, 27 Feb 2014 14:30:32 +0000 Responsive Web Design Part 2

In previous years, companies and web designers have usually taken a desktop first approach but with the rise of responsive design and the increase of mobile web users, it’s become a rapidly growing trend to design for mobile first. If you’re new to the world of responsive web design check out part 1 here.

Here are some stats from Pew Research last month:

As of January 2014:

  • 91% of American adults have a cell phone
  • 55% of American adults have a smartphone
  • 32% of  American adults own an e-reader
  • 42% of American adults own a tablet computer
  • 67% of cell owners check their phones for messages, alerts and calls even if their phone is not ringing or vibrating.
  • 44% of cell owners have slept with their phone next to their bed because they wanted to make sure the didn’t miss any calls, text messages or updates during the night.

And here is a big one:

  • 29% of cell owners describe their cell phone as “something they can’t imagine living without.”

Based on these stats, and they are increasing yearly, it’s no wonder that web designers have started to take a mobile first approach. Even though this  seems like the way to go, there are always strengths and weakness to everything.


Focusing on Content & Functionality First

There is a lot less thinking to do when designing for mobile first. This gives you more time to focus on the core components and functionality of your website first. Leave all the fancy animations for the desktop version.

Progressive Enhancement

By focusing on the delivering the most important content first on mobile, this gives you more flexibility on applying more complex styling as your screen size/connection speed increases when you deliver the full website experience on desktop without slowing down your site with all the scripts and animations.

(Almost) Future-Proof

By having a mobile friendly website you can count on your website to work on the latest and greatest mobile devices. However, you can never predict what kind of whacky screen sizes companies will come out with next.


It’s Time Consuming

Even though responsive design is currently the ideal way to go about building websites these days, it is however very time consuming to get right. By designing for mobile first you need to come up with a bare bones version of your site with all the necessary functionality that you need and then begin adding extra bells and whistles as you grow towards the desktop version. Designing the other way around is even more time consuming. If you start with desktop design you then have the hard task of subtracting all the cool stuff until you’re stuck trying to figure out what to leave in on the mobile version.

Optimizing for Many Devices

On top of being a long process you have to sit down and figure out which devices you want optimize for. For starters, we design around the more streamlined screen sizes such as iPhone and iPad. If you want to go fully responsive you end up with the daunting task of developing for the the many Android device screen sizes and everything else in between. But it doesn’t always have to be that way…

Speeding Up The Process

Using a Framework

By using a front-end framework like ZURB Foundation or Bootstrap the long process of making your site device friendly is drastically sped up. These frameworks allow you to make your website layout more fluid with its various css selectors and plugins. They will speed up your work flow so you don’t have to worry as much about managing a million media queries.

Whats Next?

 Understanding The Grid

In my next post I’ll go over using the column grid system and apply those principals to responsive web design.

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The new FredXchange Mon, 17 Feb 2014 14:30:49 +0000 Vanguard Ideation is proud to launch the new microsite and community hub for the Fredericksburg region today. not only details the events that happen in the area but the startups and business that are a key part in helping the area grow into an enriched culture that can help start more businesses. FredXchange is a great way to get connected to other people in the area. It is a network of entrepreneurs, developers, designers, strategists, and people with great ideas who need each other to build theses businesses.

Thanks to all of these wonderful supporters of FredXchange for making a difference in the Fredericksburg region. Germanna Community College, Germanna Community College’s Workforce department, Deedod, Wishstars, Blackstone Coffee, The Center for Faith and Leadership, and Fredericksburg All Ages!

Follow FredXchange on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook.

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Getting Better Clients and Creating Value Tue, 04 Feb 2014 16:30:26 +0000 So I wanted to share this interesting story about a client lead that I met with a couple of weeks ago. This company reached out to us wanting to revamp some of their product overviews, product catalog and website. So I said great! We really like the products that they were selling and wanted to help them out. I set up a meeting with the contact and was introduce to two new individuals. The main contact was in charge of things and he left the room without listening to anything I had to say. I went ahead and spoke with the two individuals and we went over what Vanguard can do for them. They seemed enthusiastic about working with us and really liked the solutions we were offering. That is until they asked for our hourly rate. The man in charge then came back in ready to flip a table figuratively. He then proceeded to lecture me on how my price was absurd and that he can get someone else to do it faster and cheaper. I was practically booted out of the place.

Needless to say we did not get the gig and that turned out to be a good thing for us. Here’s why…

Why you shouldn’t work with just anybody

When your starting out as either a freelancer or a small creative agency, sometimes you would be willing to suck it up and deal with a bad client. The fear of not having regular work come in can sometimes get to you if you’re pressed on paying your bills for the month. I believe it doesn’t have to be this way. When meeting with a prospective client here are some signs that should immediately tell you to avoid them at all costs:

  • Someone who stubbornly ignores any advice you give them and thinks they’re always right – A client should come to you because of your expertise and insight not solely because you make things pretty. Remember to always be respectful in the way that you present your ideas as well.
  • Someone who demands constant revisions and changes – Be sure to outline exactly how many revisions a client gets in writing before starting any work past initial sketches.
  • Someone not willing to pay your fee or hourly rate – This one is a no brainer. If they’re too cheap to give you a deposit before starting work or agree to your hourly rate then they aren’t properly invested into their own brand and don’t see the value of good design.

Basically, if it doesn’t feel right. Don’t do it and don’t be afraid to fire a client. These people aren’t worth your time and you shouldn’t lose sleep trying to make them happy. If you’ve taken the plunge into doing full time freelance work or working towards creating a name for your small agency, you must learn how to pick the right client for you.

Here is a great video from The Design Council that outlines the value of design and how it can help your business thrive.

“Think of design as a really flexible and powerful tool that can help with everything your business needs to thrive”

Choosing the right client

In recent weeks we’ve had the privilege to meet some awesome people at Startup Weekend Fredericksburg. After the event, we have continued to work with our teams as well as getting to know members of the other teams and creating new partnerships with them. We’re excited to be working with the other teams and helping them achieve the next level of their business. Everyone had a great, innovative idea to bring to the table and we’re heavily invested in their products and services. These are the kind of people we want to work with and are great examples of ideal clients. Some signs that you have a found a good client to work with are:

  • They have primarily come to you for your creative expertise and insight – Someone who is willing to listen to you with open ears and take your advice to heart is someone you want to work with.
  • They are open to collaboration – You can’t have a successful project if you’re not fully collaborating with your client.
  • They see you more like a business partner rather than a freelancer – It’s important for the client to see you as an equal and really see the benefits of working with you. You’ve both working together to reach a common goal.

Differentiate yourself

In order to really differentiate yourself from all the other freelancers and small agencies, do some real research on your potential clients and develop sustainable solutions that you can propose in order to win their business. It’s not about how pretty or trendy you make their brand or website, it’s about really getting touch with their core audience and getting them to act. If you’re a freelancer, I strongly urge you to expand your knowledge on marketing and business. This will be a key factor in getting new clients and keeping them in the long run. Designers are a dime a dozen these days and being a great designer alone will not win you the clients you want. In the end it’s really about bringing real value to yourself and your business and that’s what will set you apart from everyone else and make a difference.

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Design Trends for 2014 Tue, 04 Feb 2014 14:30:27 +0000 At the start of the year I have begun to notice a few trends beginning to evolve into a repeating style other designers are beginning to emulated for their own designs. With each trend designers try to the best of their abilities to recreate or make great sites in the same aesthetic because its “popular” at the time. Being that these are new trends on the horizon I figure that some of the aspects will stay onward to 2015 but some may die.

Full Screen backgrounds

The more content to show the bigger the screen. A lot of sites are starting to utilize their space and create an opening slide that fills the whole screen with just one image at a time. Showing off work/content with simple typography and flat designed buttons is something seen on a lot of sites lately. Some sites have added a feature where there is video feed on a loop having a textured overlay to display content. Though this is an effective measure in creating a better visual experience for their own website. With the growing trend in flat design its hard to stand out there and be unique with just flat colors, clean typography and a few aesthetically pleasing icons to show for your content. Videos and miscellaneous content help in improving not only your online presence but your overall brand experience. There is a point to where designs can look similar in which its hard to tell if something has been mimicked or plagiarized.

Animated Flat Design

With flat design slowly becoming an overwhelming necessity in the mobile world, it has started to take on a new form with animations. In some WordPress themes and sites for animating CSS, there has been a need to bring back the flash like effects to the web in an SEO safe format. A site can do more than be static. It can be fun, it can be interactive and it can move. With the recent announcement of Facebook’s new iPhone App called “Paper“, which was just recently released, features a lot of interactive motions and animations that have the user moving content with their finger to simulate actions. With the loss of texturizing in reality on applications and sites the actions are taking more of a stand than the look. Having the same experience but in a new modern way I believe is the new way people will design for mobile in displaying content.

League of Moveable Type & Lost Type are overabundant

For designers, there are only so many options we have in sources for being able to get new typefaces that look good. There are some sites such as the “League of Moveable Type” where people download and use some of these fonts on a lot of their projects because they are a free and don’t come with a cost in licensing. Fonts such as “Wisdom Script” and “League Gothic” are common fonts people use on the web or in print for their designs. With overuse of these fonts, they become a cliche to the point where if you see it on a larger marketing campaign by an enterprise company it starts to lose it’s brand value. Learning to use these fonts in moderation is something designers need to do in order to not look too trendy.


With the influences of pop culture in Star Trek and Iron Man with panels that move with a touch there has been a need to make that interaction a reality. By taking our wishes and thoughts of how we want to interact with technology and our ability to make it a reality creates the slow struggle in implementing the functions. Pop culture and our instant gratification culture are shaping up our relationship with technology. With all the flat design needs and some applications such as “Trello” having interactive features of moving objects, it slowly shows that we want to do more with technology in how we do daily tasks.


Map Pin Bubble
Swipe Motion Graphics
Genie Effects
Clean sites & motion graphics
Grided images & Pop out content
Full Screen Backgrounds

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#SWFRED – It’s Peanut Butter Jelly Time! Fri, 24 Jan 2014 17:30:45 +0000 For Startup Weekend Fredericksburg I chose to be on Team Sprelly. Adrian Silversmith, who had competed in the Made in Fred VA event, pitched the idea of having a local downtown Peanut Butter & Jelly Sandwich shop that is healthy. With his family he thought about the options there are for kids to eat and how much people in America eat peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. So he did some research on similar food restaurants and came up with ideas on what he wanted to do with the eatery. He ended up winning “The People’s Choice Award” at the event and came to Startup Weekend Fredericksburg hoping to make this idea a reality. For this weekend we took what he started and started brainstorm places to test the product and other products he could created.

He partnered with local designer and owner of Paul’s Bakery to make these “Sprelly Spronuts” which were tested at Blackstone Coffee and Paul’s Bakery. Samples were also brought to Germanna with high praise. With the products in mind — I continued to work on the brand and design of Sprelly, including the website. For the design aesthetic, Adrian and I agreed that it should be more organic, clean and distinguishable. Using PB&J colors with a brown bag texture gives that organic and classic look people expect but keeping it simple. I thought that the best way to go about in making a website for Sprelly was to use WordPress so that it could be easily updated and still have the ability to share the news on Sprelly’s latest events. It is a one paged responsive theme that works great on mobile. I was able to take the existing menu, content information, and add the social media widgets with Kyle Santana, our developer, to complete the site.

While I finished the design aspect, the rest of the team started planning a location to test the sandwiches. Through our team’s networking connections we were able to get a space in Spaces Design Studio next to FoodE in Downtown Fredericksburg. Thanks to the owners we were able to host almost 200 plus people to come in and out of the PopUp Eatery to try product samples. Through our push in social media on Facebook, we began to have a huge following that ended up with 500 likes in 3 days time. Twitter was around 100 followers by the end of the weekend. The reviews of the food were all positive. People enjoyed the sandwiches and thought it would be a great addition to the downtown area.

By final pitch time, I had finished the site and our marketing strategy became clear on how to present to the judges how much we had accomplished. Our pitch went well and under the time limit but we ended up with Crowd favorite and placing in 3rd at the end of the competition. Now its onto the community building and brining Sprelly to families in the Fredericksburg area with hopes to become a franchise.

Follow Sprelly on Facebook, Twitter & Instagram!

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