Notes from an Oakland designer


One of the ways I support Oakland’s AXIS Dance Company as President of the Board of Directors is to provide pro bono design services from time to time. Designing pro bono work for AXIS is a satisfying way to use my professional skills to serve the community.

Most years, I design a series of promotional pieces for their Home Season, and this year I had the pleasure of creating a poster, postcard, program cover and BART poster to inform the Bay Area about their upcoming performances at the Malonga Casquelourd Center for the Arts, including work by Joe Goode, Alex Ketley, Bobbi Jene Smith, and Sonya Delwaide.

Here’s a peek at the BART poster, soon to be seen in East Bay stations:


AXIS Dance Company, Home Season 2015 / Onward, BART poster 

Meanwhile, the Board of Directors is currently accepting applications for a cohort of new members set to begin in June, and it was time to refresh our recruiting materials. We decided to replace a lengthy booklet with volumes of content that could already be found on the organization’s website with a concise marketing piece with basic facts about AXIS’s global and local impact as well as the requirements of Board membership presented in bullet points for easy reading.

The finished product is a 5×7 folded piece on card stock, that also can be downloaded as a PDF. Here are the front and back, and below, the inside spread of the piece:

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AXIS Dance Company Board of Directors Membership Guide (cover)

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AXIS Dance Company Board of Directors Membership Guide (inside)

If you’d like more information about serving on the board, visit our website at



So pleased for The Placemaking Group that the Facebook campaign I managed last year for their client, McRoskey Mattress Company, has won a Silver Horizon Interactive Award. Congratulations on this and all your other well-deserved awards!


McRoskey Mattress Facebook campaign



This fall I started working as a web design contractor at Simpson Strong-Tie Company, working on a total redesign of the investor-facing website for their parent company, Simpson Manufacturing. This new website features an entirely new section has been created to inform the public about the company’s commitment to social responsibility, whether through environmental efforts, social programs, or governance.

With the release of its annual report, a carousel was added on the home page, to display a series of images calling out how Simpson Strong-Tie products give the construction industry “the power to build”.


For the past four weeks I’ve been taking an online course through HOW Design University, based on Jim Krause’s excellent book of the same name, D30: Exercises for Designers. “D30” refers to thirty days of hands-on exercises for designers and other creative professionals or fans to fine tune their skills and re-invigorate their connection with love of design—that childlike desire to play with art that we can lose touch with over years of dealing with the grown-up realities of deadlines and clients and billing.

For this course, we focused on three or four exercises a week. On the playful, getting in touch with your inner kindergartener side, projects ranged from making paper mâché balloon bowls, to creating designs on paper with uncooked pasta, to drawing stylized “swirling swirls” on paper napkins; on the more technical honing side, exercises included drawing the negative space of a chair or other simple object, playing with the macro settings on your DSLR in a simple homemade photo studio, and creating a short stop motion movie with photos of circles.

I found it really fun and refreshing to lose myself in these projects—a great reset on my own engagement with love of design and arts and crafts. Highly recommended for designers and artists looking to reconnect with the basics. Here’s a selection of the wide-ranging projects I tackled this month.


simpson-aboutExciting news! This week, I’m starting a new contracting gig through The Creative Group, working on site at Simpson Strong-Tie as a member of their growing marketing department’s web design and development team. I’m looking forward to trying something new and getting to know a new group of web design professionals.

My posts here may become a bit less frequent due to the change in my schedule, but I’ll continue to update with news of my ongoing work and things that interest me in the design world.


I’ve just wrapped up a quick job for an Oakland agency that does a lot of work with Stanford, using existing graphic elements from a previous fountain seating area open house flyer to create an informative flyer about fountains being turned off during the drought. But how does an illustration of a fountain work without water? Here are the original flyer and my inspiration, Cassandre’s classic 1932 Dubonnet advertisement, a triptych showing a bottle being progressively emptied, while its consumer is progressively fulfilled.

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And here’s my solution:


Shoot A Selfie in Shades to Win Ray-Ban® Aviator Sunglasses

Woobox makes running a photo contest a snap across social media outlets.

Woobox makes running a photo contest a snap across social media outlets.

Photo contests are a terrific way to engage fans of your travel destination. For the next few weeks, folks who post a sunglasses selfie using the hashtag #GuamRays to Instagram, Twitter or through the Woobox app will be entered to win a cool pair of Ray-Ban® Aviator Flash Lenses, offered by the Guam Visitors Bureau. You can also enter on the contest tab on the Visit Guam USA Facebook page.

Good luck to all who enter, and I hope you have as much fun taking creative selfies in your shades as I did working on the design for the project for The Placemaking Group.

Post-contest update

The contest is over, and with 154 entries, Guam’s primary social media accounts got a collective boost in followers from the #GuamRays contest. Facebook followers climbed from 1241 to 1630, Twitter followers grew from 1347 to 1471, and Instagram followers increased from 268 to 339.


This week’s selection of inspiring tweets features photographer Henri Cartier-Bresson, Mariana Abramopug, designer Louise Fili, the Oregon coast and great design by NYT Magazine. Enjoy!

Follow me around

The Friday Five is a collection of tweets that made my day sometime this week. Follow me @deirdrespencer, for tweets about design, social media marketing, art and other stuff I love.


Several weeks ago, I shared the importance of using Facebook promoted posts to gain visibility for your product or service. Here’s great example, from a design and social media marketing campaign I worked on for an agency client, The Placemaking Group.

A Targeted Ad Campaign

This high-end, brick-and-mortar mattress and bedding retail shop is growing its small Facebook audience, and wanted to promote a month-long pillow sale in the San Francisco and Palo Alto areas, to an audience over the age of 30. With this campaign, both goals were achieved. This $25, 5-day Facebook ad campaign generated 35 page likes with a reach of 1,103 people who were not current page fans during its run.


A Promoted Post

During the same time period, we also ran a $25, 5-day promoted post that was seen by 2,115 people, liked by 59 fans, and shared 4 times. Compare this to a more typical post with 25-30 views, 2 likes and no shares.


The Takeaway

Altogether, this campaign raised the number of page fans from a previously stagnant 113 followers to 168, and was seen by 3,218 people in the specified demographic and geographic regions during its brief and very affordable run. 

Numbers reported back from Facebook proved that the most successful ad by far was the one featuring the same image of stacked pillows seen in the promoted post. This data will be used to inform future ad runs during the last weeks of the sale.


This week’s selection of inspiring tweets features a Chabot Space and Science Center/Oaklandish collab, an edible alphabet, metal type, the inspiration for the Monterey Aquarium’s logo, and how crayons are made. Enjoy!

Follow me around

The Friday Five is a collection of tweets that made my day sometime this week. Follow me @deirdrespencer, for tweets about design, social media marketing, art and other stuff I love.