Jun 22 2017

Local Business Spotlight: Tori Tissell

Tori Tissell, founding owner of Storiarts, maker of literary soft goods, has the kind of internet success story that entrepreneurial dreams are made of.

It started with a personal project. For holiday gifts in 2011, Tori created her first run of book scarves — an excerpt from Pride and Prejudice silkscreened onto a square of super soft, off-white (think the pages of a classic book) fabric. She gave most as gifts and listed a few for sale on Etsy.

Tori in her home workshop cutting material for a scarf.
Tori Tissell cutting out some Alice in Wonderland in her workshop.

Tori had been living in Portland since 2008, when she moved here in pursuit of a career in fashion design. She was working four days a week at an office job in the dental field, and worked on her creative projects with her time off. The book scarves were the first item she’d put up for sale on the peer-to-peer e-commerce site, which focuses on handmade and vintage items.

As a fashion accessory, the scarves were a perfect statement for Tori and some of her friends. One of the things that she likes about designing wearables, in addition to the utilitarian aspect, is that “no matter what, what [a person wears] expresses aspects of one’s personality.” A self-identified bibliophile and introvert, Tori liked that she could spark connection over one of her favorite things though her apparel choices, and keep her neck warm in our cool PNW winters, too.

Screen printing a scarf with Maya Angelou’s poem, Still I Rise.
Screen printing a scarf with Maya Angelou’s poem, Still I Rise.

The Pride and Prejudice scarves sold quickly on Etsy, and Tori received many requests for more. The scarf got shared on Pintrest as well, further boosting interest. After three months, Tori was able to leave her office job and make scarves full-time.

Rising Action

Since 2011, Storiarts has expanded their catalog to celebrate more than 27 titles on scarves, fingerless writing gloves, t-shirts, pillows, and baby hats. Staying rooted in the Pacific Northwest is a key value in the company, and most of their products are printed, cut, sewn, warehoused, and shipped in Oregon, with some milling and cutting happening in LA. All of their products are handmade in the US, even though production has scaled up quite a bit since Tori made everything by hand in her garage. Now that the manufacturing is off her plate, Tori can focus on design of new products, as well as drawing all of the illustrations for their scarves, writing gloves, and t-shirts.

Though Storiarts was born through e-commerce sales and continues to sell through several online retailers, it wasn’t long before they expanded into sales at brick-and-mortar stores. The Library of Congress shop was the first to approach Tori about carrying book scarves, and today you find them in the New York Public Library as well, along with dozens of other libraries and boutiques across the US, and in Australia and New Zealand. 

To Be Continued…

Woman reading a book outside a coffee shop.
Amber modeling a lightweight summer scarf outside of our neighborhood coffee shop.

Upswept Creative does much of the marketing photography for Storiarts, from clean product shots to lifestyle photography like this one featuring Amber Nicotra, wearing a new scarf from their Spring 2017 collection. 

We love working with Tori and her co-owner and husband, Chris. Their company embodies so much of what we value in working with independent businesses — from their commitment to keeping it local, to the thoughtfully-crafted, pleasantly nerdy products they sell.

What’s your next creative venture? Let’s talk about discovering your authentic and compelling brand story that will help you connect with your ideal audience. The first step to schedule a free clarifying consultation is clicking ➡︎ here. ⬅︎


May 11 2017

DWP: Good Design Solves Problems

On April 28th, Upswept Creative hosted a panel discussion at HQ as part of Design Week Portland. What started as a fun idea tossed to the group in one of our team meetings very quickly evolved into a fully realized, (and totally booked!) event. Creative Director and Benevolent Overlord Sarah had been thinking a lot about design, and what makes good design really work. So we assembled a diverse set of design professionals for our panel and happy hour, to help us explore the topic, “Good Design Solves Problems.

Our hope was to represent perspectives on design from multiple design disciplines, so  panel consisted of Design Scientist and Innovative Strategist Stef Koehler, Architectural Designer Callie Coles, Apparel Designer and Founder of Hubris Apparel Rita Hudson-Evalt, and Upswept Creative’s very own Sarah Giffrow, who specializes in website design and branding.

THE DISCUSSION

 

Design Week Portland panel
Our wonderful panel, from right to left: Stef Koehler, Rita Hudson-Evalt, Callies Coles, Sarah Griffrow, and the moderator, Josselyn Haldeman.

The panel dove right in, addressing the question at hand. How does good design solve problems? Kohler spoke on her practice of making the problem bigger, “see all the parts,” she said. “Look at it as a system. Don’t make it simple, complexify it.”

A major piece of creating beautiful, problem-solving design is finding out exactly what a client’s problems are–and that can often be tricky. The panel agreed that most clients don’t have the language to communicate exactly what they want, and that means it’s a designer’s job to pull it out of them. “The client may not know what the problem is. Get ahead of the problem…Make the dress that lets them feel like themselves,” said Hudson-Evalt.

Sarah chimed in with an approach all of the panelists could agree with: communicate with your client. “Have a conversation. Engage with the client to pull answers out.”

As an architectural designer, Coles described how she will go into a space to observe how people use it. When do people start looking confused? Where do they look for direction? “[There is] no substitute for observing what people do real space,” said Coles.

“[Create a] balance between ‘brand’ and what the user actually wants to get to. First impressions- big photos, catchy phrases- can get in the way of finding the pie or buying the shoes. What is the interaction the end-user wants?” said Giffrow.

Design Week Portland nametags
Professional name tags. So fancy!

This touched on a major theme of the evening, empathy. To get inside the end user’s head, a designer has to be empathetic to that experience. Hudson-Evalt suggested, “Talk to people constantly, what they need from the dress/what they want. Realizing themselves in the mirror.”

UNTIL NEXT TIME

Team Upswept Creative had such a blast putting on the event, and we hope everybody who came out enjoyed themselves, too. Thank you to all of the panelists, Design Week Portland, and our lovely audience for braving the heat to make it out to our little event.



Jul 01 2015

Open Source Bridge Day 2: You Are Not Your User

Day Two of Open Source Bridge encouraged us to look beyond our own experience, and try to see the world through a different lens. Not only does it help us be more compassionate as people, but it also helps us create and code better design and user experiences for everyone we want to reach.

Algorithms Can Have Powerful Consequences

Open Source Bridge Keynote: Carina C. Zona talks about using data insights responsibly.
Carina C. Zona talks about using data insights responsibly.

Carina C. Zona opened Day 2 with “Consequences of an Insightful Algorithm” and talked about the incredible number of things we can learn about people through data, and subsequently, the potentially hurtful actions that can stem from it. Zona brought up several examples of big-name companies who have used their data less-than-responsibly, such as FitBit’s public exposure of sexual activity on profile statistics, or even more disastrous, Target’s advertisements towards pregnant women exposing a teen pregnancy. Big companies can learn a great deal about their customers by gathering and analyzing customer data, but they can easily fail at using that data responsibly.

Inadvertent algorithmic cruelty–a phrase coined by Eric Meyer–is, “what happens when code works in the majority of cases, but fails to take other use cases into account.” These types of things often happen because the consequences of how data is being used aren’t being thoroughly considered, which is easy to do when you assume that your customers and users are similar to you. That means that people outside of the assumed majority can get hurt.

We all have biases, whether we’re aware of them or not, so it’s important for us all to consider what motivates our choices, and how that can affect others who don’t share our biases. Data can be an extremely powerful tool, but it’s up to us to be honest and trustworthy, to use data responsibly, and to actively counter the biases that exist in ourselves and our culture.

Good User Experience Means Seeking Other Perspectives

With the Day 2 keynote fresh in my mind, I attended multiple sessions that encouraged all of us in tech to reach outside of our own perspectives, to think and learn about users who are different from us, and use that knowledge to create better user experiences for everyone.

Amelia Abreu facilitates a session about creating better design with user research.
Amelia Abreu facilitates a session about creating better design with user research.

Amelia Abreu and Rachel Shadoan facilitated a longer-form session, Dog Food is for Dogs: Escape the Crate of Your Perspective with User Research,” which focused on escaping the limitations of our own perspective through user research. We know our own projects inside and out, but our users don’t have that same advantage, so it’s part of our job to do the research and learn more about the people we’re designing for.

The session focused on a couple of different strategies to help us learn to see beyond our own experience: first, we looked at a photograph and brainstormed about everything from the circumstances and feelings of the people in said photo, to potential solutions to their problems. Later in the session, we broke up into several groups and explored different scenarios, so we could strategically think about the different types of people who might work with our projects, what’s exciting them about our work, and what their struggles might be.

The clear message here was that we need to consider a variety of people when we create user experiences. People tend to congregate with others who are just like them, so that can easily lead us to assume that our experience is the only one that matters. Our user scenarios should be based on field research, or we risk falling into tropes and our own biases.

In a similar vein, David Newton tackled the topic of making web design more inclusive in Universal Web Design: How to create an awesome experience for *every* user.” Newton looked at successful examples of universal design in the real world–such as curb cuts to improve accessibility for wheelchairs, strollers, and bikes–and then expanded on the concepts of universal design and how they can apply to Web Design.

Creating web design that’s intuitive, flexible, and easy to use in a variety of situations was a big topic here, and it’s one that I loved talking about. A good universal design works for us, and we don’t really think about it until it’s not there when we need it. No matter what type of web site we’re building, be it business, personal, or community, our number one goal? We want people to use the site. If you have a web design that’s confusing, or that isn’t easy to use for all of our users, then your web site is falling down on the job.

Newton went into a detailed run-down of tips, concepts, and best practices for making web designs more accessible. And, he also stressed the importance of listening to and considering a variety of users. Diversity is not only about the user, but also how they access the web, what devices, connection speeds, and so forth. We were encouraged to listen to our users, respond to their email feedback, do focus groups, and do our best to learn what they need, so we can create a better web site experience for everyone.

In short: “Remove barriers. Make things easier for users, even if it’s a little harder for us [as designers and developers].”

Did you miss out on the conference? Look back at Day 1 of Open Source Bridge, and take a look at some of our photos on Facebook.


Jun 25 2015

Open Source Bridge Day 1: Everyone In Tech Matters

We’re spending a big part of our week at Open Source Bridge, both taking in wisdom and taking photos! On Day 1, I spent a lot of time wishing that I could be in multiple places at once, but I did make it to a couple of different talks which drove home the message that tech needs to strive to be more inclusive, more socially aware, and more collaborative.

Stepping Towards True Diversity in Tech

Kronda Adair opened the Open Source Bridge conference by talking on what we really need to do to encourage diversity in tech.
Kronda Adair opened the conference by talking about what we really need to do to encourage diversity in tech.
Kronda Adair kicked off Open Source Bridge with “Put Up or Shut Up: An Open Letter to Tech Companies Seeking Diverse Teams,” which gave direct talk about the problem of diversity in the tech industry, an industry that continues to be dominated by white males. One startling statistic: “50% of women in tech quit the industry within 10 years.”–not simply their jobs, but the entire industry. Hiring more women and other underrepresented demographics into tech companies does help, but as Adair stated, it is simply not enough.

Adair emphasized the importance of companies throughout tech stepping up and putting real weight behind their stated desires for diversity.  Empathy is key to creating an environment that is welcoming to all, and a supportive work environment is key to retaining people from those underrepresented demographics.

In short, it’s important to create a space that’s safe for everyone, and that allows diverse groups to flourish. It means not allowing members of your company or community to act badly without consequences. Value interpersonal skills as well as technical skills. Give access to tools and education, and inclusive healthcare. It can even be as simple as taking the time to learn an unfamiliar name. When you think on diversity, don’t simply wonder, “how do I add diversity?” but ask, “how do I make things better for everyone?”

When Fear Takes Hold, Reach Outward

Adam Edgerton shares what happens when fear hits on a project, and how to handle it.
Adam Edgerton shares what happens when fear hits on a project, and how to handle it.

In an afternoon session, Adam Edgerton looked at what happens when the project management cycle gets scary in “Project Fear.” He touched on the very real issues of burnout in all facets of tech–Edgerton suggested that burnout is one major contributor to why people quit the industry–and the feelings of uncertainty that come with joining a new project or a new company. “Impostor Syndrome is most strongly associated with high achievers,” so even those who are expert and capable, and performing well, may feel the fear that comes with uncertainty

New hires can take anywhere from 6 months to a year to gain the background knowledge about a company that’s needed for them to perform well, so patience is key. Edgerton suggests reaching outward to help combat uncertainty–asking questions and doing research to gain the background you might be missing can help you find the “a-ha” moment of understanding. It’s also important to balance your gut feelings and your logic, much like our friends Kirk and Spock. And, allowing yourself to talk about struggle and share it with others can help relieve the pressure that leads to burnout.

Your Job Impacts Your Community

Kelsey Gilmore-Innis talks on the surprisingly long reach of tech dollars in politics.
Kelsey Gilmore-Innis talks on the surprisingly long reach of tech dollars in politics.

An afternoon session with Kelsey Gilmore-Innis, “Your Job Is Political,” dove into the long reach of tech dollars in politics. Using her knowledge of tech leaders in the Bay Area, she went into extensive detail about venture capitalists in tech, the surprising number of tech companies they’re tied to and invested in, and most importantly, where their political interests lie–and subsequently, where their millions of dollars are going.

A sad truth of our political system is that money continues to command a great deal of power, and the work you do as an average tech worker contributes to advancing political interests that you may not support. If you don’t take a position, but your bosses invest revenue from your labor in politics, you are not impartial. Be aware of who is at the top levels of your company, and what they are doing (or not doing) to benefit your community.


May 28 2015

WebVisions PDX: Design is about People

I got to drop in on the WebVisions Portland conference earlier this month with a longtime collaborator, Jen Barth of Big Small Brands. The conference was a multi-day affair, but even a one-day peek felt like time well spent!

The two talks I attended on Friday morning weren’t especially similar, but they had one very important thing in common: they were people-centered. A design can be the most aesthetically pleasing thing in the world, but it won’t be successful if it doesn’t consider the people involved in making it, and the people who will be using it.

It’s All About The Interface.

Sarah Hall talks at WebVisions about how design affects people, and how people can inspire design.
Sarah Hall talks at WebVisions about how design affects people, and how people can inspire design.
Sarah Hall talked about “The Science of Art,” and got nerdy about the way our brains work, and how we can use that to make better design. The human brain has a variety of ways to perceive and interact with the world, and good design considers how people will respond to it.
Why are we so obsessed with Web Design and UI? Hall summed it up wonderfully: “Your interface affects how you understand and process the world around you.” So, if you want your work to be understood, you need design that helps the people you want to reach understand what you do, and reach out to you.

How You Connect People and Ideas Can Make You Memorable.

Ultimately, design is about connecting, and connecting isn’t just about person-to-person, either–it’s about how our brains connect and relate things together. Sometimes, things that might otherwise be completely unrelated feel like a natural connection, in your own mind. One of the roots of creativity, as Sarah Hall put it, “is divergent thinking, and how you make connections between disparate things.” When we consider how the people we want to reach will link one idea to another, we can make design that’s easier to understand, or design that catches the user’s attention and becomes more memorable.

Good Design Means Working Together.

Adam Connor’s talk, “Working Better Together: Characteristics of Productive, Creative Organization” was focused on the creative team, rather than the end user, but the people-centered approach still rang true. He talked about how each person’s role in a project can overlap, and stressed the importance of understanding each person’s role, looking for shared values, and building trust within the team and with the client.
One thing we do a lot of at Upswept is encourage our clients to give good, honest feedback, and Connor’s approach is similar: he encouraged everyone to be involved in the design process. Each person is important to making the end product Awesome, and having everyone–even the client–involved makes that final result even better.

Good Design Thinks About The Next Step.

Another comment from Adam Connor that really hit home for me is that, “real design does not have an end point. It is infinite; it is iterative.” It makes perfect sense for our clients, too, in my mind: your business is always growing, changing, and evolving, so your design should grow and change with it.
Don’t get me wrong: this doesn’t mean having a web site that’s constantly under construction, or ordering new promotional flyers every other day. But, the web site or branding that’s perfect for you today probably won’t fit you so perfectly a few years from now. Your business depends on how people respond to it, and your design should reflect that.
So, when you’re thinking about the next steps for your business, think about how that might affect your design needs, and plan for it. Even a great design can be improved, whether it’s right now, or sometime in the future.

Apr 29 2015

Athletes into Superheroes: Conceptual Photography

Photography is a powerful way to make an impression, and creating unique conceptual art is just one way of doing it! A couple of years ago, I absentmindedly scribbled down the idea of shooting skaters from the Rose City Rollers’ all-star team, the Wheels of Justice, in superhero-inspired poses and settings. Seeing these people as heroes wasn’t much of a stretch, in my mind: at that time, I was a Fresh Meat skater without a team to call home, and I’d go positively starry-eyed watching these top-tier athletes do amazing, powerful, even gravity-defying things on skates.

So, when the team announced a “Heroes’ Ball” Fundraiser Party and Art Auction, it felt like the perfect opportunity to donate my time to support this team of inspiring women, and bring a concept to life. Over the course of two short weeks, we photographed four different Wheels of Justice skaters in unique Portland settings, and then edited and designed them into posters inspired by movie posters and superheroes. I researched and scouted locations all over Portland, recruited helping hands for lightning-fast lighting setup, and made the shots happen in record time. Together, we explored rooftops, busy downtown streets, and deserted industrial neighborhoods, and each skater brought grace and enthusiasm to the set.

We printed out the final posters at 18″x24″, framed them and had them autographed (both by the skaters and the artist), and they were then put up for as one-of-a-kind auction items at the fundraiser. The super-excellent DJ Agent Meow even queued up the appropriate superhero theme music as the posters were unveiled! I was excited to learn that the posters raised ~$1000 for the team at the fundraiser party and art auction, and I’m SO happy to help them on their way to becoming world champions.

The Wheels of Justice will be showing the world what they have to offer at The Big O tournament in Eugene this weekend, and I’ll be cheering my face off for them from Portland! We owe a big thank you to each of these skaters, for inspiring us and for making time to work with us. Now go get that Hydra! 😉

Chestnut #127 as Batman
Chestnut #127 as Batman
Scald Eagle #50 as Captain America
Scald Eagle #50 as Captain America
Moffatt #2 as the Incredible Hulk
Moffatt #2 as the Incredible Hulk
Gaither #26 as Superman
Gaither #26 as Superman



Feb 19 2014

Branding design for the WedBrilliant web site

portland-branding-design_wedbrilliant-logo
Logo design variations for the WedBrilliant brand.

Branding for the wedding industry isn’t exactly new territory for us at Upswept. In my earlier days as a photographer, I photographed quite a few weddings, so I got a taste of the industry, worked some vendor events, encountered more than a few wedding brands and pinboards, and learned just how much planning, energy, and sentiment goes into making a wedding happen.

It’s that intensity, emotion, and detail of wedding planning that sparked the idea for WedBrilliant! Founder and CEO Melissa Wilmot chose Upswept to bring her vision to life, and it was an honor to take her concept from the rough sketches in her mind to a fully-functioning brand and web site.

Designing a Logo

Melissa had done her homework, looking through a lot of different sources of wedding inspiration to find the styles that spoke to her–something we recommend all of our clients do. We wanted to create a brand that appealed to women, but didn’t necessarily exclude men, either, so popping shades of pink were right out!

Business card design for Wedbrilliant.
Business card design for Wedbrilliant.

We ended up with a soft green and a deep navy blue as our primary colors, and dreamed up an elegant oval-shaped badge design, along with a circular version of the logo that would work great as a social media profile photo, or in other contexts where square dimensions would be a better fit.

Once we did that, we designed business cards to match, with a rounded corner cut and an uncoated card stock, to let the paper’s natural texture come through. Keeping the design simple and elegant was the name of the game!

Developing the Web Site: Not Your Average WordPress Theme!

WedBrilliant has a lot of special functionality at work behind the scenes, which meant that we had to build it! Melissa hoped to make WedBrilliant into a unique way for engaged couples to interact with wedding vendors, so we created custom displays for user profiles, a searchable directory of Vendors, the ability for couples to request and receive bids from vendors in their area, and plenty of other features you won’t find in a standard WordPress install.

Design for the WedBrilliant homepage
Design for the WedBrilliant homepage

Before we started development, however, we knew we needed to nail down the design aesthetic for the site. So, we dialed in a stellar homepage with callouts to important parts of the site, that showed off inspiring wedding photos from San Francisco wedding photographer Meghan Faith, so we could get couples excited to plan a beautiful wedding like the ones shown in the photos! We also chose typefaces that would bring some style and elegance to the site, without going crazy-over-the-top with script fonts and curlicues.

After the design was locked in, it was a long several weeks of development, testing, and styling the web site to make it look good, function well, and make it easy for both couples and wedding vendors to find the information they wanted, and get involved in the WedBrilliant community.

We just opened the site to vendor registrations earlier this month, and the community is starting to grow already, with wedding vendors signing on from across the country, and wedding couples starting to find out about it, too! We’re so excited and happy to have built Melissa’s vision for WedBrilliant from start to finish, and I’ve enjoyed watching the site grow and get interaction from real users.

Both Melissa and I are already starting to look ahead to the future, so I’m sure we’ll be making the site even bigger and better before long!

Portland branding design – Portland web design – Upswept Creative