GoodDesign 2

Measuring “Good” Design

Measuring “Good” Design 840 1120 Nathaniel Seevers

Measuring Design

We produce regular reports for our clients to give them a picture of performance and ROI for the services we provide. In those reports we measure a number of things from execution against big picture strategy down to specific performance metrics on specific channels for a specific period in time. 

Graphic design, web design, print design are a few of the regular services we provide to clients. Even though it’s not as simple to measure as say, the conversion rate of a Linkedin campaign or the click rate of an email newsletter, design can still be measured, if nothing else for internal improvement.

Like art, there is always some level of subjectivity to design. People will like or dislike a piece of art or piece of graphic design without being able to communicate why. We all carry innate biases built by a lifetime of experiences and collection of tastes. “I don’t know, it just speaks to me.”

Like art, design can be measured against principles and technique. But this type of evaluation requires certain knowledge in the area, be it oil on canvas or front-end web design. Unlike art, the sort of design we produce in branding and marketing can also be measured against functionality. 

In combination with design principles like balance, space, contrast, hierarchy of information, etc., we also look at the intended function of the design piece. Function could be the objective of an advertising campaign; function could be alignment with brand attributes, it could be the design’s ability to engage a certain audience demographic.

This is where a creative brief or a set of design parameters comes into play. This is our documentation of purpose and parameters, the baseline for measurement. Being able to look at those two components allows us to answer some of the whys—why a client or a creative director didn’t like a design piece or why it didn’t live up to performance expectations. 

Success becomes the melding of design for function and design within a set of parameters, while allowing room for the down in the gut emotive connection to design. 


The Good, Bad, and Ugly of Photoshop AI

The Good, Bad, and Ugly of Photoshop AI 900 1150 The Design Team

You can’t open your eyes or ears these days without crossing paths with the term AI. It’s a hot-button topic, and for good reason. The slope is slippery and steep regarding what can be (or should be) created with the use of AI tools. 

Our team has spent minimal time with tools like MidJourney, but when Adobe introduced Generative AI in the latest version of Photoshop, we began to explore. 

Adobe describes generative AI like this, 

“Generative AI is a type of artificial intelligence that can translate ordinary words and other inputs into extraordinary results. While the conversation around this technology has centered on AI image and art generation, generative AI can do much more than generate static images from text prompts. With a few simple words and the right AI generator, anyone can create videos, documents, and digital experiences as well as rich images and art.” 

It’s worth noting that Adobe has integrated generative AI into several of its products, but for this write-up, we’ve focused on Photoshop as it’s arguably Adobe’s most widely used program. 

Here’s a rundown of our experiences: 


Sure, you can use Photoshop AI to add a rainbow to your photo or replace your father-in-law with a juggling clown. But I was more interested in how generative AI could improve production processes and provide flexibility with image assets. 

For example, say you snapped a photo or sourced one (that allows for alterations), and this photo in question is in portrait format but you’d really like to use it in a square or landscape aspect ratio. With the right steps and prompts, generative AI can help you “expand the content” of the photo, essentially creating the world outside of your photo frame. Below you’ll see the simple steps I took to do just that. 

As with most things in Photoshop, there’s more than one way to get where you’re trying to go. One option would be to expand the canvas using the crop tool, then use the marquee tool to highlight the area you would like to complete and use Generative Fill.

But, if you’re only looking to complete the image outside of the original frame, Generative Expand seems to be the way to go. Simply select the crop tool to expand the original canvas and background layer, then click Generative Expand and let AI determine the most appropriate variations. As with Generative Fill, in Generative Expand, you can provide a prompt or leave the field blank and let AI determine the most “logical” course of action. 


Generative AI in PSD has me tripping. But it might just be a “me problem.” After playing around with these images and trying to add realistic elements to the photo on the right, I’ve realized that writing successful prompts is a skill to be mastered.  

This may seem stupid but the first time I got in there, I selected the whole canvas, wrote “Add flamethrowers behind the guy in this image” and got some very wacky results that eliminated the guy and created a whole new scene entirely. 

The AI algorithm is designed to analyze composition, framing, and cropping but it can only do that when a partial area is selected. 

The trick behind it is specific area selection and descriptive prompts that help the AI understand what you want. They give you tips like, “Avoid using words like add, fill, change, and instead describe exactly what you want generated. “ Doing this helped me get results that were closer to what I was envisioning. 

It isn’t a science, so it takes a lot of experimentation to get the right image and style. 


Take AI for what it is at this moment. AI right now is great for helping expand backgrounds, creating some beautiful scenery, or adding an occasional element. There’s a lot of fun to be had with adding accessories, or maybe even changing what you’re wearing.

If you take the time to figure out how to prompt the program, it can be a great tool. Use smaller selections to fill in the background pieces and overlap your marquee with the current background just enough to give AI something to work with.

Another tip for better results – unless you’re a fan of a few extra phalanges – steer clear of adding humans!

Have thoughts on AI design?

Open book showing multiple logos

How to Work Through a Logo Refresh

How to Work Through a Logo Refresh 1920 703 Nathaniel Seevers

Trained or untrained eye, sometimes it’s clear that a logo no longer holds up in the marketplace. Maybe it relies too heavily on past design trends and hasn’t aged well. Or frankly, maybe it was poor design from the start. On the flip side, even the most well-designed logos can periodically benefit from a design update that better reflects an evolution of the business (see the Rolling Stone evolution below). But it can be scary to think about scrapping a longstanding logo and wandering out into the design unknown, especially when considering the identity equity that’s been built up over several years of business existence.

It’s not always necessary to start from scratch to show progress. There is a way to maintain some of that familiarity while showing the world your logo belongs in the modern day. It’s called a logo refresh and here are some components to consider.


One of the fastest ways to see real improvement in logo design is to evaluate the typeface, whether custom or out of the box, and adjust for current brand personality traits and/or communications goals. Brands evolve and market tastes change, oftentimes the typography utilized in the original logo design can begin to feel outdated or simply no longer represents the brand effectively. We worked through something similar with Timmy Global Health (below).

For example, incorporating a typeface with more uniform lines can add modern appeal, adjusting weight and kerning can tilt the scale of sophistication and drama. Better typeface design is often a prerequisite to helping a logo reach its full potential.

TGH Logos

Color & Contrast

Color plays an important part in the visual recall of brand identity. Coca-Cola red, Starbucks green, etc. Incorporating the right color palette can help convey the right brand intentions and creates a more memorable connection. Color psychology isn’t a hard and fast rule for branding but certainly is worth considering. There’s a reason why most financial institutions are represented in greens and blues not red.

The wrong hue can also impact initial perceptions of value. Color can make a logo looks flat, ordinary, cheap even if it is representing a premium product. Shifting the shade of a color can help add needed weight to the design. Adding a complementary or foundational hue can provide contrast and fresh appeal.

Dropbox (below) not only simplified the shape and blue on their icon but also changed the wordmark to black, helping to anchor the design and create contrast.

Space & Balance

Not too long ago, YouTube redesigned its logo, cleaning up the type slightly, but more obviously, incorporating the red tv shape aligned left as a new standalone mark instead of as part of the name. The new alignment gives the logo better balance, an updated look, and a more versatile design.

Improving space and balance doesn’t mean everything has to be symmetrical but it does mean considering all the ways and sizes your logo may be represented.

YouTube logo before 1
YouTube Logo after 1

Having said all of this, each opportunity for logo refresh will require an individual approach. Though he wasn’t a designer, nor was he referencing design in this instance, I’m always reminded of a quote from Albert Einstein that goes, “Everything should be made as simple as possible, but no simpler.”

When in doubt, during your logo refresh, simplify.


Ted talks to keep you creative

Ted talks to keep you creative 1920 700 Shout Out Studio

Welcome to March! New Years resolutions have  faded, it’s STILL winter, and there’s a lot of work to be done. So here are a few TED talks to keep you inspired, creative, and motivated.

Elizabeth Gilbert – Your elusive creative genius

One of my favorite TED talks, author of Eat, Pray Love, Elizabeth Gilbert talks about following up your greatest success and attempting to chase down the creativity that made it possible.

“I think that allowing somebody, one mere person to believe that he or she is like, the vessel, you know, like the font and the essence and the source of all divine, creative, unknowable, eternal mystery is just a smidge too much responsibility to put on one fragile, human psyche. It’s like asking somebody to swallow the sun.”

 Kare Anderson: Be an opportunity maker

Kare talks about how making people who are unlike ourselves our allies… creates opportunities, for everybody.

“What I’m asking you to consider is what kind of opportunity- makers we might become, because more than wealth or fancy titles or a lot of contacts, it’s our capacity to connect around each others better side and bring it out.”

 Margaret Gould Stewart: How giant websites design for you (and a billion others, too)

Margaret guides us through how complicated it can be to create designs that scale, but how important it is, to get it right.

“Audacity to believe that the thing that you’re making is something that the entire world wants and needs, and humility to understand that as a designer, it’s not about you or your portfolio, it’s about the people that you’re designing for, and how your work just might help them live better lives.”

 Richard St. John: Success is a continuous journey

Richard demonstrates how believing that you’re successful is a great way to fail.

“So I went back to doing the projects I loved. I had fun again, I worked harder and, to cut a long story short, did all the things that took me back up to success.”

 Edith Wilder: How we found the giant squid

Edith shows us how changing the method used to view underwater species helped catch a shot of the very elusive giant squid. Her very creative alternative approach generated amazing results.

“We’ve only explored about five percent of our ocean. There are great discoveries yet to be made down there, fantastic creatures representing millions of years of evolution and possibly bioactive compounds that could benefit us in ways that we can’t even yet imagine.”

What are some ways you stay creative and motivated to do your best work? How do you inspire others to do their best work?

who are you designing for?

Who are you designing for?

Who are you designing for? 1920 703 Nathaniel Seevers

The Design Dichotomy

Whether you’re an individual designer or part of a design team or simply someone in a company who has some say in the final design output, you carry with you a heavy question.

“Who is this design for?”

One the one hand, knowing your audience and creating pieces that will resonate is a crucial part of any brand communication.

On the other hand, stepping outside of your authentic self as a company or a designer for the sake of chasing trend can ultimately water down the relationships your brand is working to build.

So there’s your line. Draw it. Paint it. Walk it. But how?

Set the goals of the design first thing.

Here’s where we can fall behind right from the start. All too often the goals for a design project go something like, “we need a label design for this salsa. Make it look awesome. Go.”

Your definition of awesome and my definition of awesome may be completely different. Not to mention the customer might think both of our definitions of awesome are, well, not so awesome.

Good design requires some sense of space for creativity, sure, but some context and direction is just as important. What are the goals for our new salsa label? Just to be awesome? That’s too broad. Do we want it to stand out on the shelf? Speak to our fresh ingredients? Prepare people for just how stupid hot it is? Are we marketing to the buyer who cares about locally sourced or organic?

Thinking about and documenting all of the requirements and considerations in a creative brief takes some of the guesswork out and gets you thinking about your audience.

Ask yourself what you bring to the design table.

This is where we shift focus for a bit from the recipient to the messenger. Reflect on your collective works for a moment. What are the consistencies in your design that you want to carry through to this project? Are there brand characteristics to be considered? Especially if this is part of a brand extension.

Remember, “a camel is a horse designed by a committee.”

Internal meetings happen. Client meetings happen. Opinions happen. And often times in these “happenings” design by committee can be the result. It’s important to establish a filter for the noise. Ideally this can start in the Goals Phase by only having the people involved who absolutely need to be involved in the design process and when it comes down to it, trust has to be placed on the right person to make the final edits.

The NY Times wrote a piece a few years ago about the difference in design approach between Apple and Google. It’s nicely summed up in the photo below but the full article is well worth the read.


You can’t be everything to everyone and you shouldn’t. That holds more true for design than possibly anything else because when you set out to create something for everyone to love chances are no one will. So who are you designing for?

Photo credit: ANGELOUX via Compfight
Adapted by Shout Out Studio
Illustration via NY Times / Peter Arkle


Show Them Your Creative Briefs

Show Them Your Creative Briefs 1920 700 Nathaniel Seevers

You don’t have to be a big-time ad agency or even run a traditional “creative” business to benefit from a creative brief. Maybe you’ve hired an outside team to help you design and build a new website or refresh your logo. Maybe your marketing team is about to get started on Linkedin ads. Both of these examples benefit from a creative brief.

So who is it for and what does it do?

A common misconception is that the creative brief is for the client. Nope. It’s not entirely for the creative team either. It’s for both.

A well-constructed brief put together by the creative team harnesses all the important details of the project and frames it in a way that provides validation between client and team and sets a track for the creative team to move forward upon. When the creative team gets the client to sign off on the brief they’ve helped to reduce second-guessing from both sides. It’s all right there in the brief.

In order to accomplish this, however, a good creative brief needs to answer at least the following questions: read more

Image of Why we love Moo - from Shout Out Studio

Why We Love Moo

Why We Love Moo 880 461 Nathaniel Seevers

We haven’t changed our Facebook status or anything yet but it’s fair to say the team here at Shout Out Studio are collectively in love and we’re all chasing the same crush. It’s a long distance relationship but has never once been a letdown. We’re in love with Moo.

There. We said it.

Moo is an online printer/provider of premium business cards, postcards, stickers and the like. We use Moo for a number of creative printing projects. In fact, we constantly think of ways we can use them more. Let me tell you a bit about why we’re so infatuated.


Right from the start, we felt at home visiting the Moo site. The copy is informational and yet conversational. There’s personality in it. They don’t take themselves too seriously and you get a glimpse inside Moo’s culture in the way the products are described and presented. It feels like someone you know is behind the scenes. Someone you can trust. Someone you’d enjoy grabbing a pint with. read more

Photo of newly sharpened color pencils

How Color Can Impact Your Business

How Color Can Impact Your Business 880 461 Nathaniel Seevers

Color can play a major role in how folks think about your business

Color choice in branding and identity design can come from many different places. Maybe it’s simply your favorite color or the color of your house when you were a kid or it’s a representation of a word or phrase in your company name. All of those reasons are legitimate but another thing you might want to consider is the way your company will be perceived by others because of the colors you use. Some companies also think about the potential saturation of a certain color or palette in their market. We did when developing the palette for Shout Out Studio, but we also wanted our colors to reflect our personality and intention. read more

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