Seeing the People Behind the Project

I sat in the corner of the basement room on a cold, metal chair, surveying people. One by one, they stood to talk about the importance of the work they do. Their eyes lit up and their hands fluttered as they told stories of the people they help on a daily basis. It’s one of my favorite things about this job, watching people light up. Claire Murphy, Executive Director of L.E.A.P., talked about the children who participate in the Head Start program. Kim Cook, President and C.E.O. of Open Door Mission, emphasized the importance of meeting people where they are and helping them to learn the “rules” of entering the job force. Kim Sopczyk, Executive Director of Family Services, spoke about how someone came into her office that very morning, inquiring about where they could get a winter coat.

 

Sitting in that room among people who spend every day caring for others and trying to lift people up was humbling. I was there to document the event for L.E.A.P, but it became about more than a single day. I thought about my 10-month-old son who needs his first winter coat, and how expensive they are. Thankfully, the organizations we partner with can help people find what they need, and we can play a small part in helping them navigate their way there.

It’s easy to get stuck in your own world, but it’s those times when you learn about others’ stories that you realize how much more is wrapped up in the word community, and your gratitude multiplies.

We provide design assistance, help increase awareness and elevate the identity of programs, which can truly make an impact. But maybe the biggest outcome is sharing their stories after the work is done.

Trampoline Transformation

We’re dedicating the month of October to transformation. Because we’re creative types, each person’s interpretation of transformation might take its own shape. Next month will mark 15 years since we received the seal of incorporation and began the Trampoline story.

When we incorporated in 2003 we had two full-time employees; today we have 18. Our specialty was branding when we started, fifteen years later destination marketing is our sweet spot. That said, every new brand that comes into the shop is lunged at like a tray of gooey-fresh-from-the-oven-chocolate-chip-cookies.

 

There was a time when we thought we had to change who we were to make it, turns out the most important asset has always been who we are. This isn’t to say that we haven’t had to learn new things or make adjustments, because we have. What I mean is that the partners who started this agency made it because we had skills that complemented one another.

Numbers, design, strategy, and language—threaded together with a fondness for solving problems. These elements carried us from our first client to our current professional relationships. It’s these same strengths that have helped drive our growth. Looking back there are visible periods of expansion, as well as times that we’ll always remember with a wipe of the brow. There comes a time when you have to reevaluate the business plan, not just to update it, but to make sure it reflects who you are and where you want to go.

 

More significant than the influence digital had to print or that social media had to communication, employee additions have demanded the most transformation.

Today the reality is that we’re having a lot more of the meetings we used to scoff at, “Another meeting? Just get it done.” We’re talking about objectives and inviting conversations about leveraging individual strengths. I watch headlines publish that I didn’t write, our Art Directors approve projects they otherwise would have designed. We don’t sit in on every meeting, and we don’t take every job because we’re doing what makes the most sense for the entire team.

A few weeks ago, everyone in the office selected their favorite completed projects and we had them printed. Our impetus for doing so was a desire to make the studio represent the people here. Watching the enthusiast suggestions was unlike anything I’ve experienced.

Some days I catch myself looking at the office, the workspaces decorated with snapshots of pets, children’s handprints, and souvenirs from vacations people have taken and I am moved to silence. We started a business for us, but we have built a life for many more. It’s an honor and a responsibility.

Here’s to another 15.

 

Transformation: L.E.A.P.

From the Designer: 

Creating a brand can often be an exercise in answering questions. What does the client see? What do we, the designer believe will best represent what they are offering? How does what we envision work with what the client envisions? Who is the audience and what will they expect? What will draw the viewer in? What will push them away?

When executing a rebrand, the list goes on. What is our client’s current perception? What about their current logo contributed to that perception? What about that perception do they want to change? How do we move in the right direction?

In the case of the Washington County Economic Opportunity Council, an organization providing many resources both in and outside Washington County, from career assistance to educational resources to a food pantry, our objective seemed clear. They needed to expand in many ways, but first, their name needed to be shortened. We needed to make it clear their services were available to more than residents of Washington County. We needed to broaden the scope of their services beyond the titular ‘Economic.’ We needed to welcome those who felt they needed their services and not just cater to those who were directed there.

When we began work on this project, the client acknowledged that there was confusion being caused by their current brand. It seemed they were an agency of the Washington County government and the consistent use of ‘EOC’ was causing even more confusion than its source, ‘Economic Opportunity Council.’ We wanted to land on a name that was both more direct and more inviting for people in need of their services and potential donors/corporate partners alike. In addition to the naming, they wanted to leave behind their old mark, a busy, low-resolution file depicting the county with its seal and the acronym nested inside, and shift towards a more professional appearance.

After a ‘name-storming’ session or two ‘L.E.A.P.’ was decided upon, an acronym standing for “Learning. Employment. Assistance. Partnership.” and doubling as an accessible action verb. This name allowed us to position them as a serious and professional organization while also setting up a visual system, that unlike its predecessor, could encompass all that they do.

We started by focusing on a letter treatment with an abstract mark or none at all. While facing spacing issues caused by the periods in the acronym, the solution of using them as the signal art presented itself. Eventually, we landed on a solution where the letters were encircled in colored, lightly overlapping circles. This would allow L.E.A.P. to offer a bright and approachable look, while further establishing the division and overlap of their services. The rings related color to a subsection of services, something that would go on to be used across many print materials and organizational pieces. The transparent overlaps illustrate the Venn diagram of those services and spiritually represents the connection between the communities and people they serve.

 

A valuable insight came during our final round of presentation. Up until that point, the colors were saturated, but far from bright, and the spheres were perfectly symmetrical. The feedback was along the lines of, “These are too serious. We need it not to feel too heavy. We want people to feel welcome and comfortable coming to us.” This note was the perfect example of the question we hadn’t asked that pushed us one step further.

They were right. This wasn’t a brand about the severe nature of the problems that the organization was trying to resolve. This was about people. We brightened up the colors to a warm and welcoming family and added a loose, organic touch to the circles to echo that idea.

This mark is a clear and conversational identity for their organization and a catch-all for the multitude of services they offer and people they serve.

 

From the Account Manager: 

I jumped into my first rebrand at Trampoline with the L.E.A.P. project. It was an incredible immersion into Trampoline, rebranding, and the process of working with a client with multiple layers of decision making. As an account manager, one of the things I focus on is client satisfaction, in this case my clients were the administrative team at L.E.A.P., the Head Start staff, and leadership, the Board of Directors, the current and past customers of L.E.A.P. services, as well as the communities within Washington County that they serve. That’s a lot of layers!

Rob talks about the design process in his post, I hope to shed light on the other side of the equation, which are the goals and objectives of the various stakeholders and indeed forecasting how we can design and strategize in a way that makes people feel seen and heard. My experience prepared me for people to be nervous and resistant to change. I was pleasantly surprised to discover that this group had done the work ahead of the project. Everyone was receptive, trusting, and excited.

As the first start-to-finish transformative project at what was to me a new job, L.E.A.P. helped me see that my non-design role is an integral part of the big picture. We established mid-way through that these groups were not going to work effectively through email.

We took great pains to ensure that people got face-time with us. We visited Head Start, attended various committee meetings, and generally made ourselves available. Even when people told us the idea of a name change was intimidating, they offered up promises to go for it. It was actually something we remarked on as L.E.A.P. rose to the surface from the potential names.

This organization and its people are all about making things happen. The Head Start educators innovate with materials and mindsets, the L.E.A.P. administrators navigate grant funding and bootstrapping aspects of the job, and the various committees volunteer their time with great excitement. Still, I’d be lying if I didn’t admit that there were times when I thought they’d say, “It’s too much. We can’t.”

They met each presentation with thoughtful consideration, honest feedback, and valuable input. One of my favorite memories might be when they took turns “answering the phone” with potential names. And yes, some names got the ax because they couldn’t imagine saying them to a caller or to a colleague in an elevator.

Over the coming months, we’ll be helping L.E.A.P. launch, I have no doubt that they will do it with the same passion that they’ve had, but with a new spring in their step and twinkle in their eyes.

 

The scAvengers!


Trampoline exists as a team of dedicated designers, wordsmiths, strategists and production pros. We’ve grown at a carefully managed pace over 15 years and have a specific process that delivers results for our clients. We work hard, and love what we do—and it shows.

It’s not always that way in our industry. We’re aware of other approaches, arrangements and outcomes because we hear about them; from clients, potential and longstanding, industry allies and vendors. There are some risky bets where communication is concerned.

These Inaction Figures set poor precedents in our forum, so we’ve done our own surveillance on seven different creative counterfeits, graphic grifters and mountebank marketers.

The Visionary:

You’ll recognize this walking idea guy because he’s wearing a blazer, holding his hands together with fingertips touching, and cocking an eyebrow at an open laptop. He’s putting the finishing touches on a presentation with slides that include pictures of the planet, watermarked stock photos and statistics.

Be ready for pointless stories that end with questions and include pauses…for dramatic effect. Count along as they make a list on their fingers! Alias: Thoughtleader

The Guru:

Gurus know that the first step to elevate themselves professionally is a bullshit moniker. Well-positioned as a guide, Gurus elevate discussions to an intellectual level, where absolutely nothing is accomplished, but much is discussed.

Imaginary marketspeak like synergy or paradigm shift create obstacles where none existed previously. Be sure to jot down their inspirational business “quote” before booking your next session. Code Name: The Maven

The Collabro:

This dude is keeping it lit. Always ready to link, always tryna build.

Despite burning through those 250 Vistaprint business cards, momentum remains elusive. Assembling teams of specialists on a per-project basis seems like an innovative model, in reality it’s a scheduling nightmare.

With a phantom support staff, Collabro ends up doing a lot alone. Yet, even in the face of limited resources, no potential project will be refused. After all, he knows a design student who will probably do it just for the exposure.

Good Time Charlie:

At happy hour, the salvo comes from your immediate left, “Put that one on my tab.”

A quarter turn, and you’ve lost the evening to Mr. Charisma. He’s on a first name basis with the wait staff and has absolutely nowhere to be.

He’s comfortable asking questions to collect the information needed to build consensus through conversation. Good Time Charlie lives up to his name, he’s agreeable, and puts his big laugh to use, making it clear What A Fun Time We Are Having.™ Don’t forget to use a coaster on any barroom deal, they’re usually all wet. AKA: “The Consultant”

The Hypographer:

Designer clichés exist for a reason. Certain creative professionals value style above all else.

These Pantone™ unicorns don’t give a damn whether it works, “Just look at how beautiful this is!”

Their artistic opinion has made a long journey from under a slouchy knit cap, past boho chunky eyewear, and through a sloppy-yet-somehow-intricate scarf. Their masterpieces are completed, only to be critiqued by a client who has concerns about type size, contrast issues, and whether or not the work actually, ahem, works.

The Designbot:

For those looking to save some serious Bitcoin, consider an online, virtual, digital, futuristic, artificially-intelligent way to create terrible content.

The Name Dropper:

Laser connected, and ready to mingle, the Name Dropper knows them all. Or, has a friend who does.

They have worked with celebrities, magnates, heads-of-state, alien emperors and everyone that you know.

Easily identified by membership lapel pins. Alias: the Story-Topper

National Write Your Story Day: The Story of Trampoline

Today is National Write Your Story Day. As a partner at an agency that specializes in storytelling, through visual elements and words, I can’t help but approach this day with delight. We’re celebrating our 15th year in business and I want to take the opportunity to look back on all that has changed around us, personally and professionally.

It was late fall 2003 when we incorporated. We shook hands as newlyweds and new parents at a campground in Dorset, Vermont, pledging to create a company that put family first and would have an unerring focus on design and communication that hit the mark. The early months were lean, with late nights and light paychecks (if any). Two of us held full time jobs to keep us all covered by health insurance, the books were done after bedtime, headlines written before sunrise.

Read more

Music, Monsters, & Jedi Wisdom

“Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it.” (Side note—obscure tidbits about Ferris Bueller’s Day Off here.)

Theatre is a great excuse to stop and look. Here, we can help, sit back and watch the trailers we created for the upcoming Adirondack Theatre Festival season.

See, didn’t it feel good to just slow down for a minute? Do yourself a favor and go order tickets to make sure you slow down this summer.

 

Here Through It All

Communicating a message seems straightforward until of course, you add in the noise, competition, misinterpretations, and fleeting attention spans. The ability and willingness to refine a message, as well as the presence of mind to make it about the audience, is imperative.

Glens Falls Hospital wanted to use the Olympics as an opportunity to speak to a happily captive audience. Using lush imagery that fit within the epic winter vistas of PyeongChang, a message of rebounding from injury much like an athlete, and concise iconography to illustrate the services that Glens Falls Hospital offers, this general awareness spot communicated without interrupting, because there is a time and a place for disruption.

 

We enjoyed creating this spot, but even more than that, we enjoy seeing it as we cheer on the fearless athletes.

Tips for the Yosemite Traveler

[Photos & video below]

As an East Coast kid, California seemed like a fairytale world where movies were made and surf bums lived out their days in Volkswagen vans in search of the epic wave. I admired it from a distance like a child admires his or her favorite superhero; unsure whether I’d ever get the chance to travel there. That dream came true recently when my now-fiancé and I (I’ll touch on that) visited Yosemite National Park.  Read more

Go North: an Adirondack Invitation

“We have a story to tell and a vacation to market, but no name or look…we would like you to create that.”

It’s kind of the ideal scenario when the story and journey are situated in one of the most picturesque regions of New York State and the client is someone you enjoy and admire. Working with the Wild Center in conjunction with the Adirondack Regional Tourism Council, Warren County Tourism, the Saratoga Convention and Tourism Bureau , and I Love NY, on this project was exciting.

The goal was to package a tour-based itinerary that would loop through Saratoga Springs, Lake George, Tupper Lake, and Lake Placid to be presented on an international stage. For us, this meant creating something that was not rooted in insider language or regional specificity. Consideration was given to translations and scalability to include other parts of the region at a future date.

We presented half a dozen name options, each with its own spin. The concept that was selected, Go North was followed by the simple line: The sights, shops & stories of Northern New York. Read more

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