Thrive Allen County - First Annual Pedalfest

A month or so ago, I was contacted by Thrive Allen County, (a client I've done some work for in the past), about an up coming cycling event they were calling "Pedalfest". I was very happy and excited to get to be involved in yet another bicycle-related project. I was even more delighted when I found out they wanted a female cyclist for the design.

Last weekend (September 12, 2015) was the very first Pedalfest, in Iola, KS, and Thrive Allen County was so nice to post photos on various social media platforms. Here are just a few they posted that included many of the designs I did for them.

As a designer, it's really cool (and somewhat rare) to be able to see your work in action. Especially so for us, since our clients tend to be anywhere but local.

If you're interested in Thrive Allen County and the Pedalfest, please visit the links below:




Portland Alley Pedalfest Designs by Rolling Rook Studio

Portland Alley Pedalfest Designs by Rolling Rook Studio

Inspired by a TED Talk - Greenwood Flag

After watching a TED Talk about flags the other day, I was inspired to create a few simple designs for my own city flag. I'm not even sure our city has a flag. We have a logo that I've seen on flags and it's okay, but it breaks every rule that Roman Mars mentions in his TED Talk, "Why City Flags May Be The Worst-Designed Thing You've Ever Noticed". (You should watch it...really!)

So first off, let me tell you a little about my city's logo. It has a tree with the word "Indiana" on it, in a circle that says, "The City of Pride and Progress" and it's topped with a banner that sports our city name, "Greenwood". It's very dated, busy, hard to read, and looks like it was created long before computer graphics.

GREENWOOD...Green wood...a tree....what else?

Greenwood has almost always been represented by a tree. Long ago, before the settlers to this area shooed out (or worse) all the Native Americans, built their cabins, churches and farms, the area was covered by a rather dense forest. A lot of it was cleared for farming, but some of those old trees still remain on various properties. Trees are fairly plentiful in certain areas of town, and if you get up early enough and take a stroll, (before the morning rush hour), you'd swear you woke up in a quiet forest filled with crisp fresh air. Air that has been cleared out overnight by the "green" part of Greenwood.


Nowadays, most people know Greenwood, Indiana as the place with the a huge shopping mall. It's been there since the 1960s, (in one form or another), and come the shopping holiday season, it is so packed with automobiles that some people often park on the outlying grass. "The Mall" is the place we hung out at as teenagers, and the place that I rarely go to as an adult. As a matter of fact, I never even had a job in the mall, which might make me a rare native of Greenwood.

I moved back to Greenwood (2004) after living in larger, more metropolitan towns like Denver, Indianapolis and Chicago. Since I left in 1991, a lot of things changed. I'm happy to see that Greenwood has become more ethnically diverse, which includes quite a few more restaurants of international cuisines. A rather large industrial area has sprung up along the highway, which probably provides quite a few jobs in logistics and warehousing. There's a huge amount of urban sprawl where areas that were once family farms have been taken over by housing developments. Old Town (where I live) has seen a bit of a boost in redevelopment. Besides all the churches, tattoo and beauty parlors, we now have a few nice restaurants and other businesses. People even seem to be interested in rehabbing their own homes. It has been exciting to see the city investing more in the parks and sprucing up public spaces. I'm particularly happy to see healthier grocery stores, better roads and a broader choice of locally owned craft breweries, but it still isn't enough.

Greenwood still needs a better image. We need to break free from being the town with "The Greenwood Park Mall" and be a town with the awesome people, great schools, beautiful parks, safe places to ride bicycles, walk or run,  fantastic small businesses, wonderful food, and some darn tasty craft brews. Greenwood should not only be a great place to live, but a great place to work and play. Greenwood seriously needs to re-brand!


With all these fantastic things going on, I don't see where the city has ever revamped (or even considered) its "brand". The brand of Greenwood, Indiana, just seems like an afterthought. (It could very well be that there is already something in the works, but I'm not aware of it. There doesn't seem to be a modern marketing strategy or effort to integrate social media. (Just try and Google to find the city's official twitter feed. If you do find it, you'll see that the City of Greenwood, has about 13 twitter followers when it should have tens of thousands.)  To keep in line with the city's slogan "City of Pride and Progress", I'd like to see more progress and a wonderful showing of pride.

It's hard to find Greenwood's logo online. The image I found (above) was on an insurance website for the city's employees, and it isn't readily available in any type of good, large format file. The logo seems to just be used as some sort of government seal and that's about it. It is primarily seen on city stuff, like trucks, employee shirts and the sides of the city building. That's fine, leave it there, but also develop a design that is marketable and desirous. Develop something that citizens (who do have "pride" in their city) want to purchase and share with the world. Develop something that can turn a bit of revenue for the city....Why not develop a beautiful city flag?


Taking the tree and the circle elements from the city logo, I started working independently on a flag project. The first design that I came up with was this:

Greenwood has almost always used the colors green and gold. They are the colors of our main community school and they are very good colors to represent our town.

This preliminary design incorporated the symbolism of golden fields at harvest time, the sun shining in our skies and the prosperity associated the precious metal, gold. Central to the theme is the green tree (green wood) with a green stripe representing the green lawns, gardens and farms of early spring and summer. The blue stripe above and encircling the golden sun, is the sky. The blue stripe below represents water in the form of our small creeks, both with the name of "Pleasant".


After the initial design I did several more with the same sorts of symbolism. I liked the stripes not being centered and felt they drew interest to the central tree/sun elements. 

The designs are not complicated, but simple and can still be recognized from a distance.

What I eventually settled on as my final flag design contained the letter "G" which broke rule #4 (No Lettering or Seals) of The Five Basic Principles of Flag Design (the other 4 being #1 Keep it Simple, #2 Use Meaningful Symbolism, #3 Use 2-3 Basic Colors, and #5 Be Distinctive or Be Related).  After all this IS Indiana, and people here are a bit less complicated than the rest of the United States. It contains all the same symbols, except as the design evolved, I got rid of the water/sky color of blue, because I didn't feel they were as important. The water in our town is just a small creek (or as we Hoosiers pronounce it, "crick"). Although Pleasant and Pleasant Run Creeks are not major waterways they only provide minimal irrigation and drainage, so I felt that they could easily be omitted to bring the design down to two basic and dominate colors.

Here is the final design I would propose to the City of Greenwood, Indiana and I would propose that they sell it not only on flags, but everything they possibly could...

Utilizing the design, colors and symbolism of this flag, I would re-brand the City of Greenwood and start utilizing social media more diligently (as in, several times a day). I'd suggest that Greenwood use social media as a serious tool not only to promote itself but to promote the community, including local businesses, schools, events, real estate, etc. and consider it a vital form of communication in announcing city plans, meetings, happenings, road closings and other awesome events. Most of all, it should use social media to encourage community involvement and treat it as a place for purposefully engaging citizens and responding in a way that makes them feel like they are a part of the process. Greenwood needs to promote itself to attract great people and great businesses. Let the world know that Greenwood IS progressive and that its residents ARE proud to call it home.

That's my two-cents worth of free advice for the City of Greenwood.

Personal note: My family has been part of the Greenwood community for over 100 years, (starting with the Carsons and Waldens) and it is where we still live, work and play.

P.S. If you'd like to check out other Indiana city flags, I highly recommend the website CRW Flags. My Indiana favorites are Clarksville, East Chicago, Elkhart, Indianapolis, Lafayette and West Lafayette. The rest are dysfunctional at best, and a few simply make me cringe. Greenwood could definitely have a better flag than the City of Carmel...

...just sayin'!

You can also read the North American Vexillological Association's book on flag design, "Good Flag, Bad Flag" by Ted Kay, HERE

Empathetic Approach to Design

It's true...I am a bit of an introvert. I'm a deep and meaningful person. I'm also very empathetic which means that I look at the world and try to see, understand, and feel that world from other from the view of others. And...Like most people, many of these characteristics carry over into my work. Which I don't think is a bad thing.

When I sit down to try and solve a design problem, (after I've already interviewed the client and done some research), I try to approach the problem from the eyes of the "target audience". I try to get inside that ideal customer's head and think, "What appeals to me?" "What is something that will make me remember this brand?" "How can this brand strike a meaningful chord with me?" I then go over the notes I created while speaking with the client to see if any of the ideas we discussed will answer these questions. "Is an image of a fish really going to sell skateboards?" "What kind of people buy skateboards and do most of them find fish appealing?" "Can we make the fish more skateboard-like so people can relate? And this process goes on and on.

I learned accessibility while working for the Department of Defense and I take it into account while designing too. "Can someone who doesn't speak English know what this design means or is selling? Or, can this same person be intrigued enough by it to want to know more?" "Can a person who is color blind, even see this design as it was meant to be seen?" "Does this design alienate anyone?" "Is it sexist, racist or discriminatory in any way?" "Is the design too busy, or is the meaning lost?" Finally, "Does the design require the viewer to have to think about it too much?"

I'm an advocate of aesthetics and simplicity in design. I know when to make colors contrast and uncomfortable and when to make them subtle and cozy. I know that a logo is the virtual face of your company and the importance of cohesive branding so that the face is echoed in everything your company does. I know that a design needs "to be" or "not be", and that it can't be somewhere in between. A good example of this is, the Burger King logo. The logo is a burger with a crown...a "burger king". Even if you don't speak English, you more than likely know what it means. On the other had, the Apple logo is an apple and has nothing to do with computers, but we've all been conditioned to associate it with computers, (if not elite, expensive, computers).

Showing Your Work

Showing your work can be an important part of designing. If for no other reason than to give yourself an idea of how you work and perhaps even how you think. Showing your work gives you insight to your processes (which you don't necessarily have to share with the client).

Showing Our Work: Taking an idea, sketching it out on paper (bottom) and then turning it into a digital design (top).

Showing Our Work: Taking an idea, sketching it out on paper (bottom) and then turning it into a digital design (top).

I keep a client journal on my desk. Basically, it's a Moleskine® where I write things down, old school. It typically contains a page or two I've written up during my initial telephone interview with a client. I ask a few questions, then listen to their ideas about the design, (the more passionate their ideas, the better). While I listen, I write down key points about shapes, colors,  thoughts about their ideal customers, descriptions of the service or product, and even the feelings that it conveys. If a visual pops into my head, I will sketch it out as well.

When it comes down to the design process, I start with an initial concept, and then walk away from it. Leaving a project and then coming back to it later is a great way to give it a fresh look. The second look is then shared and discussed with a second pair of eyes before it goes to the client for review.

At the beginning of 2015, Rolling Rook Studio took on a photographer and design partner who often serves as a second pair of eyes and creative director. It has changed the way we work for the better. Having another visual professional on hand to offer input on projects, has proven to be invaluable, and greatly improved our work.

Latest Apparel Designs

Latest designs...

Where to buy...LINKS...


Design based on (Arthur C.) "Clarke's Revolutionary Ideas" “Every revolutionary idea seems to evoke three stages of reaction. They may be summed up by the phrases: (1) It's completely impossible. (2) It's possible, but it's not worth doing. (3) I said it was a good idea all along.” ― Arthur C. Clarke


This design was inspired by reactions to the RFRA legislation recently passed in Indiana. This legislation has caused a lot of grief in the community and made people feel unwelcome. This is  a loving and welcoming matter who you are.


Honey bees are crucial to many plants. Pollination aides in the ability for many types of plants to reproduce and many herbicides and pesticides are killing them off.

Q & A With Rolling Rook Studio's Principal Creative

What/Who inspired you to start your own business? 

I did my first commercial project in 1987 for a small business in the Indianapolis area, and have been working in the industry ever since. I designed for several printing, publishing, apparel and promotional products companies, as well as designing smart, electronic forms for the U. S. Department of Defense. 

Eventually I found myself in the position of "graphic designer", working long nights (10+ hours), producing mind-numbing ad layouts for grocery stores, car lots and legal notices without ever interacting with one client. Although I felt a sense of privilege to be working for the largest newspaper publisher in America, I also felt that something was missing and realized that there is a difference between being production monkey and an actual graphic designer. Although the company had streamlined advertising production they had removed the one key element that I felt was most important...interaction with the client.

Shortly after leaving that position, I began what is now called Rolling Rook Studio...and I've been joyously busy, doing the work I love, ever since.


What was the greatest challenge that you encountered along the way?

The greatest challenges for Rolling Rook Studio are providing clients the right tools to communicate what they need, the ability to evaluate what they're looking for, and wether we're a good match.


How would you describe your usual clients?

Rolling Rook Studio actually has a wide range of clients from start-ups to large tech companies. We work with anything from bakeries and small breweries to much larger data management and software companies. 


What do you think is the most effective strategy to keep your customers happy and satisfied with your services?

I believe the most effective strategy to keeping clients happy and satisfied with your service, is to pick good clients, be honest, communicate, treat people well and do good (if not great) work.


What was your most favorite and successful project? 

Generally, I don't pick favorites. We are devoted to doing good work for all of our clients equally. One of our most successful projects, however has been designing for the Rogue | C6 kickstarter campaign which surpassed it's goal and is now in production making amazing, belt-driven, urban bicycles. The Rogue | C6 was even featured in USA Today as, "a bionic bicycle that's probably smarter than the car in your driveway".


In a short line, how would you entice your potential consumers to book your service?

Rolling Rook Studio simply encourages anyone to take a look at our portfolio, see our work, and evaluate if our services are right for them. Then, read the amazing reviews that our wonderful clients have graciously left for us and make that crucial decision to get in touch.