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A Sweet Story

January 3, 2013 — Leave a comment

Sweey Ice Snow Cone branding // Julie Van Huizen

I’m about to write about one of my favourites projects of ALL time. Ever. This project had everything a designer looks for in a project: The idea was totally fresh, the clients were amazing, and the whole process was delightful from start to finish. Here’s how it all began:

In what seems like years ago, Meg Makins, a friend from university, send me a brief and exciting email. It went something like this: “I’m going to start a mobile snow cone business with my friend. Wanna do the branding!?”. I said “Yes!” (and added a few squeals and exclamation points) and a few months later, I sat down with Meg and Lindsay at Mulberry Coffee in Hamilton to talk about their vision.

I came away from that meeting totally inspired. This wasn’t your average snow-cone business. For one, Meg and Lindsay (while adorable) aren’t just cute for the sake of being cute. Behind their sparkly dispositions, these guys are serious: Serious about quality, about sourcing all their ingredients locally, about making all their syrups from scratch, about representing their city in all its glory.

As visions of snow cones danced in my head, I set to work. My first attempts were still a touch too cute and a little too twee: I chose fonts that were curly and quaint, and it didn’t really match the picture Meg and Lindsay had painted. I eventually landed on a font combination that hit the right balance between sweet and serious, and finalized the palette. Another serious break-through in the design process was to apply a faux-screen printing look to the logo. I used a craft paper texture for this effect. This completely gelled with their “do it by hand” mantra, and as a bonus, it looked hella cool. Here’s a breakdown:

Sweey Ice Snow Cone branding // Julie Van Huizen

And here’s how those elements came together in the final logo:

Sweey Ice Snow Cone branding // Julie Van Huizen

While I was working on the logo, Meg and Lindsay commissioned their friend and illustrator Andrea Manica to create some original artwork to incorporate into the brand. Andrea is AMAZING and she sketched out portraits, ingredients, and host of other beautiful doodles (you have permission to leave this post for a minute and check out some of her work). Andrea provided oodles of sketches to me, and from there I colourized them, made them vectors, and them and worked them into the Sweet Ice story.

sweet ice andrea

With all these elements in place, designing collateral for Sweet Ice has been a joy. Below is just a taste of some of the work done for them so far: business cards, posters, desktop wallpapers, and fundraiser postcards:

Sweey Ice Snow Cone branding // Julie Van Huizen

I really hope this post have given you a taste (pardon the pun) for what the Sweet Ice girls are all about. If want to find out even more, watch the happiest video of all time, which is also called their commercial. I didn’t make this, but I did watch it 20 times, so that sort of counts, right? 🙂

Thanks again to Meaghan and Lindsay for allowing me to play a small part in bringing these sweet treats to the peeps of Hamilton!

Sweey Ice Snow Cone branding // Julie Van Huizen

City Love

January 3, 2013 — Leave a comment

Vintage city wedding invitations // JVH

I remember my first meeting with Catherine and Aaron very clearly. We met in the art studio of the university we all  attended, and sat by a bright window on a cold day. I didn’t know Aaron and Catherine all that well, but I knew they were creative and kind, so I said “yes” immediately to designing their wedding invitations. As we began the discussion of their vision for their wedding, one thing became very apparent Catherine and Aaron love a lot of things. They love art, they love theatre, they love music, they love their city, and all these loves would play a role in their big day. As we talked through these loves, the adjectives tumbled out from each of them in unison. It was inspiring! Not soon after we said our goodbyes, I looked over my notes from the meeting, and they looked something like this:

“They want to to be classic! Vaudevillian! Threadbare and ornate! Lace and canvas! Blue and gold! Sigur Ros! AMPERSANDS!”

Whoa. That’s a lot of wants.

And therein lies the challenge when designing for such creative people – It’s the designers job to channel all that creativity, and refine it. As I stared at the words before me, I came up with three very distinct proofs. They all played on some aspect of Aaron and Cath’s vision, but neither was quite right. The real catalyst for the final design came when Catherine showed me her (AMAZING) Save the Dates. Catherine collected nearly 20 vintage postcards, and hand-stitched each one with their Save the Date information. Suddenly, the palette and tone of the wedding became crystal clear. I went back to work.

Hand-stitched Save the Dates // JVH

Vintage city wedding invitations // JVH

I approached the invitations armed with the rich burgundy, blue, and tan hues from the Save the Dates, and tried to mimic some of the “well-worn” beauty using a variety of textures. I also selected a beautiful calligraphic font called “Burgues” for the names and monograms, and a stable, classic serif to pair with it.

The final piece in the puzzle came when Catherine and Aaron wondered if we could add some illusion to the Hamilton skyline. Cath and Aaron are cheerleaders for their city, and I appreciated their desire to express that. So, I took to the Googlematron, and looked for “Hamilton Vintage Postcard”. In one of the more fortuitous moments in my design career, I came upon a  vintage postcard that featured the VERY CHURCH Catherine and Aaron were to be married in! I tried to contain my capslock, and emailed Catherine RIGHT AWAY. She immediately bought the card of Amazon, and the invitation all but designed itself from there!

Vintage Hamilton postcard // JVH

1960s Vintage Postcard | James Street, Looking South, Hamilton Ontario, Canada

Vintage city wedding invitations // JVH

As I looked through the album from their nuptials, I’ll admit I may have said “Nailed it!” to myself. Wedding stationary should always be an extension of everything else from the day, and these invitations and programs fit the bill. I can’t end this entry without posting a few shots from the wedding. These images were taken by Asher Images, and they’re freeeeakin’ gorgeous! They also show just how well the invites fit into Aaron and Cath’s grander wedding narrative:

handmade wedding // JVH // photos by Asher Images

Thank you again to Catherine and Aaron for allowing me to contribute in this small way to your perfect day!

Vintage city wedding invitations // JVH

When Jen Met Trev

January 3, 2013 — 1 Comment

"Story of" wedding invites // JVH

Do you want to know a secret? All designers are copy cats. Yes, I said it. As are all musicians, painters, and really any kind of creative professional. Hear me out: We humans have been around a long time, and during that time, we’ve produced a bajillion creative projects, and defined a bajillion trends and styles. Our job as designers is to to re-use, re-mix, and re-invent these trends. We can call upon styles and ideas from centuries past, and aim to interpret them in a fresh and interesting way. It’s not always easy, but sometimes, it works.

The invitation I’m showing you below are a remix of an idea that isn’t my own. This idea came from the brilliant mind of graphic designer Matt Dorfman. A few years ago, Matt designed an invitation for his own wedding. He created this beautiful, witty, typographic story of the journey he and his wife had taken so far. One might call the “How I Met Your Mother” approach. Since then, that invitation has been pinned on Pinterest thousands of times, prompting couples all around the world to try to fit their own story onto one tiny card.

When Jen and Trav commissioned me for their wedding invitations, they cited Matt’s original invite as their primary inspiration. I was thrilled to try my hand at this approach, but I didn’t want to simply recreate the original. While my take certainly relies on the original, I wanted to bring in my own perspective. I selected different typefaces, I added new shapes and flourished, I used more curves and worked with more texture, and I created something original for an original couple.

"Story of" wedding invites // JVH

While I played copy cat at the start the project, I ended up with something fresh that was exactly what Jen and Trav wanted. Jen and Trav, I wish you a life full of many more stories!

*Cue Bob Saget Voiceover

"Story of" wedding invites // JVH

Old Church, New Logo

January 3, 2013 — Leave a comment

A few months ago, I launched a project very near and dear to my heart (and soul?). I designed a brand-new visual identity for my church: First Hamilton Christian Reformed Church. I wanted to take on this project almost immediately after becoming a member 3 years ago. The logo and materials the Church relied on weren’t bad, but they didn’t reflect the energy and liveliness of the congregation using them.

Eventually, I  started bugging everyone I knew on Church council. “…Can I do the logo? Please? Pretty Please? With a psalter hymnal on top?”. My request didn’t fall on deaf ears, but it did fall on ears that already had many other requests to listen to. See, around the same time I started pleading, my church was already undergoing a very significant makeover:  a major renovation to the church building. So, I waited. Eventually, the pieces of reno project lined up, and the church formed a Communications Committee. With this committee established, and renovation progressing steadily, we were finally ready to talk seriously about what this rebrand would look like. First things first, I met with Pastor Chris and Brian, the chair of the Communications Committee, in late August. I shared with them my vision for a new look and my concerns about the old one, and they did the very same. We all wanted the very same thing – visuals that reflected the heart of this church. So, I went to work, and crafted a proposal to be reviewed by the Communications Committee in the fall.

Church branding // Julie Van Huizen

Admittedly, I had been playing around with ideas for sometime, so I was more than ready to meet their deadline. The initial proposal went amazingly well! We were all on the same page, and possessed a very similar vision for our church. After a few founds of edits, we made the final proposal to the Council, and it was enthusiastically approved. Here are a few insights into my design process on the logo. The logo is comprised of two parts (icon + wordmark) and I’ve organized my thoughts around those two terms. If you scroll right down to the bottom, you’ll see a few examples of the brand at work.

Church branding // Julie Van Huizen

ICON: The church icon is the primary feature of the First Hamilton logo. It serves as the central element, establishing the style and colours that could define the First Hamilton visual identity. I chose to feature a silhouette of our church building for several reasons. Firstly, it nods to the old logo design, and establishes a level of continuity. Secondly, First Hamilton is a church that is what it is because of where it is: our location is central to our mission and vision as a church. Thirdly, there is a sense of familiarity, comfort, pride, and community associated with the building that has housed so many of our congregation’s defining moments. It has been our place of laughter and lament; meeting and grieving.

While the silhouette bears some resemblance to the old logo, I’ve updated it with quite a few changes. For one, the church doors in this silhouette are much more obviously open. Our church is intended to be a welcoming environment, with doors wide open to the city around us. The open doors also allude to our the integral “missional” aspect of our church: we welcome those around us, but we also “send out” our members to spread the Word.

I’ve also used a stained glass motif to draw out the icon. This motif not only adds visual interest, it serves as a perfect metaphor for what a church body should be: Many different parts, coming together to create something beautiful. It’s rendered in many colours to reflect our intention to be a diverse community of believers. It’s framed by a warm yellow sun, representative of God’s light over all we do together.

WORD MARK: The word mark as shown in the logo is the suggested way our name should appear both with the logo, and on it’s own when there may not be room for the full logo. The proportions of the logo are as such because our colloquial name is often “First Hamilton”.

The word mark is set in a typeface called “Neutraface”. Neutraface is a typeface inspired by the architect Richard Neutra. Neutra, while mostly celebrated for his residential buildings, was also a commercial architect. He would craft large industrial buildings with functionality and beauty. This typeface provides a subtle wink to our city, Hamilton, by recognizing Hamilton’s industrial history, along with it’s ever-emerging beauty. It also uses much of the same clean geometry found in the icon design, and pairs with it nicely. Note that while I could have set the word mark in one of the icon colours – green, teal, yellow, or purple – I intentionally set it in gray. This gives the idea that the church icon is sitting on a stone foundation. We come from a rich tradition and history, and it’s on that foundation we build our church.


The next step in the roll-out of this look is working with the Communications Committee to draft all the additional supporting materials. With so many vivid line and colours, the letterhead, business cards, banners, and signage will all look refreshed, inviting, and joyful!

Church branding // Julie Van Huizen