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  • April 2018

    Tips to Take Better Photos With Your Smartphone

    by Pedersen Design

    Almost everyone has a smartphone these days, and while a digital camera with a lens will often take a better photo than a phone, a good photo is a good photo, regardless of the gear used to take it.

    Keep these tips in mind when you take photos for business and marketing purposes.

    Keep your lens clean
    You keep your phone in your pocket and your camera lens can pick up all sorts of dust and grime. So, before you take a photo, make sure to wipe your lens off with a clean cloth to remove any unwanted finger prints.


    Make sure the background is attractive
    Before you snap your pic, take a quick look at the background and make sure everything looks nice, no open garbage can or stray items behind your subject. If your are taking a photo of a product, try using a backdrop. (A clean white sheet or large fresh white piece of paper usually make a good substitute to buying a professional photography backdrop.)


    Steady your shot
    One area where smartphones still lag behind dedicated cameras is in their sensitivity to movement. A slight shake can leave a smartphone photo looking like it was taken on a rocking boat. Try to minimize camera shake as much as possible. Buying a small smartphone tripod can be great solution, or if you don't want to buy a tripod then use whatever's available—a wall, a friend's shoulder, or even your other arm.

    Use good lighting
    Too often a smartphone photo is runied by bad lighting, and using the phone's flash usually just makes things worse. Instead try positioning your subject in a well-lit area with the light in front, this way your subject wont be silhouetted.


    Adjust the focus
    Smartphone cameras have come a long way in a short time, and most now give you some control over the focus of your shot. If manual focus is available, it's usually activated with a tap on the screen, on the point where you want the camera to focus.

    Don't use filters
    If you are taking a photo for marketing purposes, filters might not be the best way to convey your message. You don't want your brand new product looking like it was made years ago by using a "retro" wash filter on your photo. Keep it clean. If you're using it for a flyer or ad, let your designer decide if the photo needs a special treatment.

    Use HDR mode
    HDR, or High Dynamic Range, is now a staple feature for smartphone camera apps. Simply put, it brings detail out of the darkest and lightest parts of your picture and creates a better balance of colors overall. The downside is that, in HDR mode, photos take a little longer to process while your smartphone works all this out.

    Watch for lens flare
    Lens flare can cause your pic to lose detail, contrast, and color. To get rid of lens flare, just position your camera so that the very bright light source is not pointing directly into the lens, or cup your hand over your phone's lens to block it out.

    Crop, Don't Zoom
    Smartphone cameras usually offer a digital zoom function to help with capturing far away subjects, but the zoom function doesn't always grant the best result. Your phone ends up cutting corners and reducing the quality of your photo in order to get a closer look.

    Instead, just set up your shot and take the photo. Once you have your pic, use your phone's built in editing mode to crop the photo to show your desired subject. This will keep the quality of the photo higher, and still get you a similar result.

    Give us a call when you need marketing photography beyond your expertise. We are here to help.

    Recently we photographed business colleagues for a study on light and contrast. The dramatic contrast in black and white captures the essence without the judgement of color. Leaving a true representation of the subject. Take a look.

  • March 2018

    Coffee Lids: A visual history of everyday design

    by Mark Sinclair

    Drawn from the world’s largest collection of take-away coffee cup lids, a new book examines the design evolution of one of the most ubiquitous objects in the world today

    Architects Louise Harpman and Scott Specht both began collecting plastic coffee cup lids in the 1980s, but only became aware of each other’s interest in the subject when they met as grad students at Yale in the early 90s.

    Between them they now boast the largest collection of take-away coffee cup lids in the world and their new book, Coffee Lids: Peel, Pinch, Pucker, Puncture, brings a selection of these lids together and looks closely at the evolution of this ubiquitous piece of everyday industrial design.

    Photography: Benjamin English/Princeton Architectural Press

    The vast majority of the lids featured in the book – over 500 “unique, patented, drink-through, disposable hot-beverage lids” to be precise – are pure function. While it goes without saying, a good lid design prevents liquid from leaking out of the opening of the cup, ensures that the drink can be safely transported and enables the beverage to be consumed with ease. And there is a lot more to this that you might think.

    These lids are “ordinary items found in ordinary places,” Harpman writes, but they remain interesting for their variety – and the sheer number of gradual improvements that have been made since they first emerged in America in the late 1970s.

    Their evolution is in fact a fascinating case study of how DIY user interaction can affect, even initiate, the design of a product.

    150: Brannock, Samuel Lincoln. Lid for Beverage Container. US Patent 8881938 B2, filed August 8, 2013, and issued November 11, 2014
    176: Hollis, Robert W., Weston S. Koennecke, and John R. Geer III. Disposable Cup Lid. US Patent 20110011863 A1, filed September 23, 2010, and issued January 20, 2011. Detail shown at top of post

    In his ‘Brief Guide to the Coffee Lid’ chapter, Specht explains how the ‘proto-lid’ – a lid with a perimeter ridge that gripped the rolled rim of the cup and that closely resembles the ‘snap-on’ lids of today – was first patented by James D Reifsnyder back in 1950.

    But it was nearly three decades later before the emerging ‘on-the-go’ consumers really changed the way that coffee cup lids were designed. In the late 1970s, Harpman explains in her introduction, it was American “coffee-loving car drivers, bus riders, train travelers and walkers” who drove the change.

    At the time, fast food restaurants and convenience stores sold hot drinks in small disposable cups “with tight-fitting, opaque lids, which had no penetrations other than a small pinhole to allow steam to escape,” says Harpman.

    Drivers, however, wanted to have these drinks on-the-go and so “became accidental DIY designers: they created the first drink-through coffee lids by peeling away small sections of the flat polystyrene, thermoformed lids. Beginning at two points on the outer rim, they tore open the lids to make mouth-sized openings.”

    While this solution was “inelegant, unhygienic, and time-consuming,” Harpman writes, it was “also very popular”. And it was this behavioral change in the way that coffee drinkers were interacting with the products on offer that made designers take note. “It is from this informal hacking or do-it-yourself community that the contemporary coffee lid came into being, beginning with the earliest peel-type lids,” she states in the book’s Afterword.

    Photography: Benjamin English/Princeton Architectural Press

    Since that point, coffee lid designers have sought to create the perfect drinking experience. Specht outlines some of the technical aspects that every lid must take into account. For example, when drinking, the mild vacuum that’s created as the lips form a seal over the opening needs to be equalized – this is usually solved by a tiny air-intake hole punched into the top of the lid.

    Then there are the multitude of “slosh drainage systems” that have emerged – essentially, another small hole or opening near the main drinking aperture that enables any spilt liquid to return back into the cup. (Various ‘stoppers’ and ‘splash sticks’ have also been designed to prevent this).

    Change to the design of lids has also come about through consumer action. Following the bad publicity generated by the 1994 case of Liebeck v. McDonald’s Restaurants, which centered on the chain’s serving of very hot drinks in cups with dangerous, loose fitting lids – and was settled in the plaintiff’s favor – warnings have become a prominent feature of lids, as have the “press-in dimples” which identify the drink within.

    Coffee Lids is a fascinating glimpse into the evolution of a design archetype of our consumer culture. The presentation of the lids enables the reader to pore over the details inherent to these appealing shapes. As Specht puts it, “there is a basic aesthetic pleasure that comes from viewing a succession of similar but not identical objects”.

    Yet the succession of lids inevitably makes one think about the sheer amount of these things that have been produced over the last 40 years. A paragraph in the book makes reference to the biodegradable lids which first came out in the 1990s – and according to the authors occupy “a major niche market in the coffee lid world” – but it is surprising there isn’t further discussion of this important area of change.

    As more is done to tackle the huge amount of plastic waste produced by take-away coffee cups – from levies placed on them at the point of purchase in coffee shops, to discounts for customers who bring in their own cups – many of the examples in the book will gradually be consigned to history. In that sense, perhaps this vast collection of everyday objects also presents a challenge to the designers of the future.

  • February 2018

    A whisky from the future: Johnnie Walker and Blade Runner 2049

    by Creative Review

    If you’ve seen Blade Runner 2049, you may have noticed the appearance of Johnnie Walker Black in one of the film’s key scenes…

    Johnnie Walker Black The Director’s cut was created in collaboration with Blade Runner 2049 director Denis Villeneuve and Love

    A bottle of Johnnie Walker Black appeared in the original Blade Runner movie in 1982. According to website yourprops.com, director Ridley Scott personally signed off on its squared-off design and a very small number of replicas (replicants?) were made available.

    Product placement these days is a very different business. For sequel Blade Runner 2049, Diageo developed a limited edition blend of Johnnie Walker Black in collaboration with director Denis Villeneuve as part of a wider campaign that saw a Johnnie Walker activation at ComicCon and a very prominent Diageo sign appear atop an LA skyscraper in one of the film’s opening scenes.

    The 2049 bottle was designed by creative agency Love (who claim they had been suggesting the brand take advantage of their attachment to Blade Runner for years before the sequel came along) and features in a key scene in the film.

    The bottle is filled with a special blend created by Master Blender Jim Beveridge. Johnnie Walker Black Label The Director’s Cut is 49% proof and Love says it is “filled with dystopian smokiness and neon sweetness”.

    Sketches for Johnnie Walker Back The Director’s Cut. Love’s design was approved by Villeneuve and 39,000 limited edition bottles will go on sale worldwide

    Quite. Villeneuve apparently chose the final design. “Like many fans, I remember the Johnnie Walker bottle from the first film, so it was a unique privilege to collaborate on designing a totally original, custom bottle for the new movie,” he says in a statement on Love’s website.

    Johnnie Walker might have been slow to capitalise on its Blade Runner connections in the past but it hasn’t missed a trick this time around – 39,000 limited edition bottles will be on sale worldwide.

  • January 2018


    by Ben Moss

    Yesterday YouTube launched a major UI revision to all its channels, from mobile, to games consoles. At the same time it’s made the first significant revision to its logo since its launch 12 years ago. The revised logo has been made live on mobile and desktop, and will begin to appear across all channels in the coming days.

    Some companies are for ever launching redesigns, others release minor iterative tweaks on a regular basis. YouTube is one of the latter—you’d be forgiven for missing their updates—the change to the logo however is more substantial.

    Every choice that has been made feels right. YouTube has dropped the red, rounded box—that vaguely resembled an old-style TV screen—surrounding the ‘Tube’ part of its name, and in the process redesigned the text. The rounded red square now sits to the left with a play icon. It’s an extremely smart move. The play icon, has become synonymous with YouTube; it is more minimal, and more flexible than the full logotype. The play button brands any video as YouTube wherever a YouTube video is embedded. However, the play button does not sit well with the original YouTube logo (the two rounded squares being incompatible in a single mark). The logo redesign unifies the universally recognized UI element, with the larger corporate logotype.

    Sometimes the hardest process in design is not spotting mistakes, but recognizing when you have something that works; the play button icon works on every level, and building their identity around it might be the smartest thing YouTube have done in some time.

    YouTube’s old logo (left), and their new logo (right).

    The text itself has also been redesigned. The new letterforms are slightly more rounded, with tapered spurs, resulting in a more contemporary, and more legible wordshape.

    It is an excellently crafted logotype, carried out by an in-house team lead by creative director Christopher Bettig. Every choice that has been made feels right, and YouTube’s aging logo suddenly feels fresh and interesting again.

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Pedersen Design Digital Brand Marketing Graphic Design Photography Advertising Batavia Illinois Chicago
Pedersen Design Digital Brand Marketing Graphic Design Photography Advertising Batavia Illinois Chicago
Pedersen Design Digital Brand Marketing Graphic Design Photography Advertising Batavia Illinois Chicago
Pedersen Design Digital Brand Marketing Graphic Design Photography Advertising Batavia Illinois Chicago