Patrick Houston Resumé


Click to embiggen.

I love infographics. I really love infographics that are especially well done, and dense with good and useful information. I love pouring over them and digesting the info they are presenting.

The thing is, they are incredibly time consuming to do. Gathering, distilling, designing and presenting information in such a way that it is digestible and pleasing to the eye takes a lot of thought and attention to detail. It is so time consuming, in practice, that no client would ever pay me to design one.

I spent probably 20-24 hours on designing the Patrick Houston Resumé you see here. They were happy hours of designing, problem-solving, revising and revising again, and I am pleased with the result. It has the essential information (contact info, work history), a bit of personal information (family, volunteerism), it shows examples of my work and who I have done work for, and gives an overview of my toolset. It’s a lot of information packaged in a linear and dense way. A great deal of time was spent on the little details.

If I were a young art director or graphic designer looking for a job, I would consider doing this. When I was working for ad agencies, resumés would come across my desk weekly. Most went straight into the trash after a 5 second glance but something like this would certainly get my attention and get a call back. A young designer who brought me a resumé with this much care and attention would go to the front of the line.

Good and honest infographics seem to be pretty rare. The New York Times graphic design team does some that are stunning. So does Wired magazine.

Bad and dishonest infographics done by hurried or lazy designers are a plague on humanity, and need to be stopped.

At any rate, I had fun doing this and thought I would share.

Magna IV Website

Magna IV Website Redesign

I recently completed a job I’m pretty proud of. A complete redesign and redevelopment of the Magna IV website. Magna IV is a commercial printer (and more!) here in Little Rock, Arkansas. I had done a bit of consulting with Magna IV on an SEO project for their e-commerce site, and when it came time to redesign and redevelop the Manga IV website, they allowed me to quote the job. I’m so glad they did.

Razorback Football Schedule 2015 Wallpaper

Razorback Football Schedule 2015 Wallpaper

Razorback Football Schedule 2015 Wallpaper


Click the pic for a high resolution file

Razorback Football Schedule 2015 Wallpaper

Hello Razorback Fans!

I’m pretty excited about the upcoming college football season! How about you? We’re only 21 days away from the first game! GAH!

I haven’t done one of these for a couple of years, but with the excitement surrounding the 2015 Arkansas Razorback football team, I thought it time to bring it back.

So here it is, the (unofficial) Razorback Football Schedule 2015 wallpaper, suitable for desktop background photos. It also works great for iPad backgrounds.

If you would like this done in a specific size for your computer or phone, leave me a comment below and I’ll do my best to accommodate.

Woo Pig Soooie!

p.s. I’ll get an Arkansas State Football Schedule 2015 wallpaper/background done in the next couple of days and post it up.

Dark Spell – Book Design

Dark Spell – Surviving The Sentence by Mara Leveritt

I am very fortunate to have been chosen to design Dark Spell – Surviving The Sentence, Mara Leveritt’s latest book on the West Memphis Three saga.

The basic parameters of the WM3 story are well known: In 1993, three young boys are convicted of murdering three even younger boys in West Memphis, Arkansas, in what was described as a satanic ritual.

The convictions of Damien Echols, Jessie Misskelley, Jr., and Jason Baldwin were based on astoundingly flimsy evidence amid the ‘satanic panic’ that gripped the nation at the time.

Mara’s previous book, Devil’s Knot, detailed the crime, investigation and convictions of the WM3. Echols received the death sentence. Misskelley and Baldwin received life sentences.

Echols, Misskelley and Baldwin were freed in August, 2011 on a Alford plea after having served more than 18 years in prison.

Dark Spell picks up the WM3 story where Devil’s Knot left off.

Click for a larger view

Click for a larger view

Dark Spell is mostly the story of the first 14 years that Jason Baldwin spent in prison.

In reading Jason’s story, I was deeply moved by the essential humanity, dignity and grace of a 16 year old boy sentenced to die in prison.

To maintain his faith, optimism and innocence in the teeth of the indifferent brutality of the Arkansas prison system is truly remarkable.

Dark Spell is a great read. Mara’s strong, clear voice shines but doesn’t distract from the narrative. I hope my book design has done justice to her words.

Deeply annotated and indexed, it gives a lot of detail without becoming tedious or wonky. I recommend it strongly.*

A third book detailing the efforts to both free the WM3, and the efforts to keep them in prison, is planned.



Not all of the projects I get involved in turn out as well as Dark Spell.

My two main goals as a designer are:

  1. Deliver work that the client is happy with
  2. Do work that I am proud of

I like to think that I have an excellent track record on the first goal. I have lots of long-term clients that I believe would agree.

The second goal is more hit-and-miss. Often as not, things go out the door that I am not completely happy with for a wide variety of reasons.

Time constraints, budget considerations, differences in taste, variances of opinion and conflicting goals all work against my happiness. And that’s fine. Ultimately, if the client is well pleased and it doesn’t completely suck, I’m good.

This project has hit both of my goals, and has been a joy to work on.

I am well pleased with the cover design. Working from a photo by Joe Berlinger, with layers of texture and a shadowy overlay of razor wire, Jason Baldwin looks out at the reader with unbroken directness.

With most of my work being web-based these days, I don’t often get a chance to do long-form typography. And I do love typesetting the occasional book-length document.

Here is a sample of the interior of the book.

Dark Spell - Pages 62 & 63

Click for a larger view

The text face is set in Minion Pro, designed by Robert Slimbach. Minion Pro is inspired by classical, old style typefaces of the late Renaissance, a period of elegant, beautiful, and highly readable type designs.

The titles, quotes, running footers, etc., are set in the Gotham family. Gotham was designed by Tobias Frere-Jones. Gotham’s letterforms are inspired by a form of architectural signage that achieved popularity in the mid-twentieth century.

There are no widows, orphans or step-children to trip over, and the letter/word spacing variances are kept to the bare minimum. I was taught, and I believe, that book typography should be beautifully invisible, and I hope that I’ve accomplished that.

* Full disclosure: Mara Leveritt is a dear friend.


Business Card Design: Help Me Decide And Cast Your Vote

It’s time to reprint my business cards, and being a designer, that means it’s time for a new business card design.

I’ve settled on the basic layout of the design, the typography, and the overall color scheme, but I’m stuck on something.

I’m not sure which background design I like best. Clean, lightly textured, or heavily textured?

I can make an argument for all three. I have a favorite, but I’m curious what you guys think.

So, what do you think? Please take a look and vote for your favorite PHDS business card design below.

I have comments enabled on this post, so if you like, you can leave a comment telling me what’s what.

Business Card Design

Business Card Design

Business Card Design

Which Background Design Do You Prefer?

  • Clean Background #1 (28%, 13 Votes)
  • Lightly Textured Background #2 (6%, 3 Votes)
  • Heavily Textured Background #3 (66%, 31 Votes)

Total Voters: 47

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Logo design is a funny thing

Logo design is not funny in an “Ha Ha! Patrick Houston, logo design is so gosh-darned amusing” kind of way, but funny in a “Isn’t logo design the oddest thing you do? kind of way.

I apologize for the misleading headline.

Here’s the thing about being a graphic designer: Most people don’t want a designer, they want to stand over the shoulder of someone who knows how to drive a computer while they design.

Because, “Hey, I got eyes, and I can design real good. I mean, have you seen my living room? I designed the shit out of that room.”

Yes, your living room is lovely. It is so nice to sit and watch TV in your living room. I adore it. Truly.

But it has nothing whatsoever to do with graphic design.

Graphic design is a discipline. Like being an architect or a lawyer. It takes years of education, experience and practice to get good at it.

Advertisers have a vested interest in controlling the perception of their brand, and the logo is the easiest place to focus their efforts.

The thinking goes something like this: “Our Logo tells our audience Who We Are. It is the visual representation of our brand. We have to dictate what people think about us.”

OK, that last sentence isn‘t something any decent marketing professional would openly think [yes it is], but it is accurate in regards to the emotional idea of what many people think a logo should do. They think a logo dictates. It does not. It represents something that is already there.

To be honest, the desire to dictate makes sense on the surface. Advertisers have a very real and valid desire to control their image. But thinking that a logo will dictate what people think about your brand isn’t a realistic expectation.

Stay with me and I’ll explain.

What often happens is that logo design becomes a typeface issue.

If we could just find the right typeface for our logo, all our sales dreams would come true“.

That’s a silly statement and no one actually thinks that [yes they do]. Lord knows that typefaces are important and that I’ve spent the past 25 years wrangling, fussing, cajoling, bending and generally obsessing over them.

Random aside #1: Recently, Kyran bought me a new computer and the most time consuming thing to do in moving to a new computer is to move my font collection. It is an 8 hour ordeal to copy, load and sort my stupidly enormous number of font files.

What also happens frequently is that logo design gets personal – people get personally and emotionally invested with their logo.

My wife/child/neice/sibling/friend designed this logo and because my wife/child/niece/sibling/friend is awesome, the logo is awesome as well!

I agree that your wife/child/niece/sibling/friend is totally awesome. But unless they have some real design experience, this is the “confusing your feelings about your wife/child/sibling/friend” with a “dispassionate opinion of your logo” trap.

It happens a lot. It becomes about ego and feelings instead of being an objective view of what your brand requires. This is always a bad thing.

There is also an amusing trend of crowd sourcing and design contesting to get a logo for your brand.

There are any number of websites that offer crowd sourced design services for a small fee, and/or offer to host a design contest for an auction price.

These places should be avoided like they are terrorists with bombs strapped to their chests.

They are populated for the most part with amateurs who have downloaded a copy of Gimp and have a folder full of free fonts they‘ve downloaded from the internets. Largely, they haven’t the first clue about what disciplined design is.

If you buy a logo from one of those sites, you will end up with a bitmap file of your logo that isn’t scalable, isn’t rendered in CMYK, hasn’t been considered as a one or two color design, will look horrible at any size/resolution other than what you’ve been given and will be a nightmare to deal with if you ever need to have it printed.

Those services have no idea what the very real discipline of logo design consists of. It is simply a “this looks pretty on my screen” deal. It will not perform to professional requirements. You will fight that logo all the livelong day.

I’ve recently gotten involved with this exact situation. The client showed me his logo and proudly said “It only cost me $100, bro! I crowd sourced it!”

[Yes, he actually called me ‘bro’. And then he fist-bumped me. And then I looked for a gun with which to shoot myself in the head.]

No, bro, what you did was buy a logo from somebody willing to design a logo for $10 an hour. Or, about what you pay for someone to cook your Big Mac at McDonalds. If his training and education has led him or her to be willing to work for $10 an hour, you have gotten what you’ve paid for I guess.

Or maybe he/she has been trained and spent all of one hour on it.

Either way, it is a bad logo.

Later, when I was attempting to explain why the logo was horrible, he proudly told me “Bro, a designer guy in Chattanooga said ‘It’s awesome that you used that scripty-handwritey typeface for your logo!”.’

Here’s a little designer confession for you.

When a designer says to you “It’s awesome that you used that scripty-handwritey typeface for your logo!”, that is designer-speak for “I am astounded that you used that scripty-handwritey typeface for your logo. You are such a customer”.

Randon aside #2: I suck at doing that ‘say it so nicely that you don’t know what I just said’ thing. I am horrible at that politically-correct, nice-guy, don’t-say-what-you-really-mean thing. It’s a southern tradition that people speak around the edges of things, and I am woefully inadequate at doing that. If your logo sucks, I’m going to say ‘your logo sucks, bro’ [ok, I probably won’t say ‘bro’]. This makes many people uncomfortable. I apologize for your discomfort.

What is required is a coldly rational and brutally honest evaluation of what the marketing goals are and how they relate to sound branding concepts, and then employ the principles of good logo design toward those goals.

Your logo needs to be carefully thought out – it’s the thinking part of logo design that is so difficult, so time consuming and so expensive. Which brings us full-circle to the idea behind the graphic at the top of this page that is a paraphrase of a sign I saw at a motorcycle shop 25 years ago: If you have a $100 business, then get a $100 logo.

Here are a few quotes from people who know about good logo design:

Simplicity is not the goal. It is the by-product of a good idea and modest expectations.

Paul Rand

A logo doesn’t sell, it identifies. A logo derives its meaning from the quality of the thing it symbolizes, not the other way around. A logo is less important than the product it signifies; what it means is more important than what it looks like.

Paul Rand

Good design is obvious. Great design is transparent.

Joe Sparano

Design should never say, “Look at me.” It should always say, “Look at this”.

David Craib

Design is an opportunity to continue telling the story, not just to sum everything up.

Tate Linden

Design is so simple, that’s why it is so complicated.

Paul Rand

If you have a great idea, it will tell you how to execute it.

Paul Rand

[Random aside #3: Paul Rand is our Michelangelo]

Here is what I would like to leave you with: Focus on your product.

If your product is good, your logo will work in harmony and reinforce what your logo says about your brand. Your logo is a vital part of your brand, it deserves an enormous focus and careful, mindful design. But it will never outperform your product or service.

Think of it this way:

If your product is a piece of crap, that’s what your logo will come to represent. It will say “this is crap” –  no matter how well the logo is designed.

If your product is excellent, that’s what your logo will say about it, unless your logo is crap – when it will say “this is crap”  – no matter how well it is designed.

Great logo design hits that sweet spot between perception, expectation, performance and quality. It’s not a simple, easy or cheap thing to get to.

Great logo design will, ideally, make your excellent product or service memorable and distinctive.

With a little luck, you might even someday find that even something as simple and meaningless as this –

– has value and meaning to people.

The PHDS Studio

Welcome to the Patrick Houston Design Studio website

The Patrick Houston Design Studio

In what has become a Christmas tradition, I’ve redesigned Patrick Houston Design Studio website.

I’m calling this one version 4.0. It’s my little Christmas present to my business.

This site is built on the WordPress platform. I’ve been working with WordPress for a while now, successfully using it to build sites for clients large and small.

It is a sturdy and flexible platform with excellent basic functionality that is expandable and scalable to virtually any need.

The Content Management System (CMS) that runs underneath the site is robust and seemingly bulletproof [crosses fingers].

Once designed, developed and deployed, a WordPress site is easy to add to and manage content with, allowing clients to take over much of the management of their website themselves, instead of paying me [hits forehead with hammer] to do it.

In the days and weeks and months to come I hope to do what I’ve never seemed to manage to do with PHDS versions 1–3 – namely, to keep the durned thing updated with all the fabulous work I’m so fortunate to do on behalf of a really great bunch of clients.

So, welcome to the Patrick Houston Design Studio website and I hope you’ll check back every so often to see what we’re up to.