MiresBall: 30 Years And Enjoying The Ride

Taylor Guitars, Nike, NBA, Hard Rock Hotel – just some of the notable clients MiresBall has worked with over the past three decades. The longest standing brand design agency in San Diego, MiresBall has helped organizations ranging from innovative start-ups to established global leaders communicate with clarity and authenticity by developing the strategy, narrative and visuals essential to creating exceptional brands.

Celebrating its 30th anniversary this year, MiresBall was founded in 1985 by Scott Mires (left) and joined by John Ball (right) in 1986, who later became partner in 2006. Today, the two men and their team – who describe themselves as easy-going perfectionists – are known in the industry for their award-winning work and enviable clients.

We recently sat down with Mires and Ball to find out more about them and the lessons they have learned over the last 30 years.

GDUSA: You’ve been a constant in the brand design scene in San Diego from the beginning. What’s the secret to longevity in such a competitive marketplace?

MiresBall: The branding design industry has really morphed over the last 30 years, and we’ve definitely had to adapt. But despite those changes, our commitment to always over delivering and not stopping until it’s right has remained the same; it’s this culture of going the extra mile, which has in part, contributed to our success. Another factor is creativity – a cornerstone our agency was founded on, and which stems from our backgrounds as graphic designers. In today’s crowded landscape, ingenuity really is key to standing out and staying relevant; our clients over the years have understood this, and have looked to us for guidance to grow and continue to connect with their audiences.

GDUSA: Branding – how do you define it and why is it important?

MiresBall: There’s really so many definitions and ways to look at branding, but to boil it down, brand is a perception. It’s what they say about you when you leave the room – your reputation. And as everyone knows, reputation is incredibly important, whether you’re an individual or a company. We help clients shape that perception by making the brand experience all encompassing – from what they say, how they look, experiences they deliver. Audiences will form perceptions, whether you help shape them or not, so it’s important to take an active role.

GDUSA: What clients or specific projects can you speak to as having contributed significantly to the agency’s longevity?

MiresBall: We’ve been very fortunate and have worked hard to foster long-standing client relationships, which have definitely played a key role in our permanency as a firm. One client – a Fortune 50 global technology company – has been with us for more than 22 years. They’re a large, high-profile, game-changing business, which has allowed us to work on a lot of different milestone projects that have been powerful for us as an agency. Taylor Guitars is another keystone client that we’ve been able to help transition from a relative unknown, to a leading icon in the acoustic and electric guitar industry. We were able to help the company capitalize on its most valuable asset – musicians and their unbridled passion for “Taylors” – to tell their story, and connect with an even wider audience.

GDUSA: What are some of the biggest challenges you’ve faced over the past three decades?

MiresBall: Definitely adjusting to the changing technology. Thirty years ago, we were working with T-squares, then the tech revolution hit and the media landscape morphed. We’ve seen a lot of businesses disappear that weren’t able to progress. Fortunately, our company has been able to transcend by staying on top of the shift.

GDUSA: Is there anyone in particular who influenced or inspired some of the choices that MiresBall has made along the way?

MiresBall: We used to share a space with VitroRobterson, now just VITRO; it was inspiring to work alongside such an innovative and powerhouse agency, and their insane collection of ADDY® awards created a healthy competition that helped keep us on our toes. Jim Stuart, the founder of Pirch – just named one of America’s Most Promising Companies by Forbes – also had a big influence on us. We had the pleasure of developing the name/identity of the company, and it was incredible to see his passion for creating something that hadn’t been done before and making the customer experience great.

GDUSA: You’ve obviously learned a lot after three decades in the industry. What is the ultimate takeaway?

MiresBall: You know, we’re still learning every day, and that’s the key – never stop. It’s also so important to produce work that you’re proud of/can stand behind because at the end of the day, your work represents you. Lastly, take time to enjoy the ride. Remember, we get to do this for a living, and that’s pretty cool.


Visual Connections Adds New Content To Annual Stock Users Event

After four years at the Altman Building, Visual Connections New York is returning on Wednesday, October 28 to the Metropolitan Pavilion, where there will be more space for sessions, exhibitors and networking. But that’s not all that’s changing this year: Workbook a leading resource for finding commercial photographers and illustrators, will be the Principal Sponsor. Their involvement means the exhibit floor will be home to artist reps and production companies, complementing the traditionally strong presence of editorial and creative stock agencies.

Already established as a leading marketing, learning and networking event for buyers of stock photography, footage and illustration, Visual Connections New York 2015 will offer the same opportunities to commissioners of new content. “This new relationship is a key part of our strategy to become the meeting place for all visual creatives, using stock or commissioning new content,” says Deborah Free, Co-President of Visual Connections. Creative directors, designers, editors and producers will all find plenty of creative inspiration, from the wide range of exhibitors, the varied sessions program, and the opportunity to network with other creatives from advertising, design, publishing, and TV production.

The day will start with the popular Keynote Q&A Session, 360° view of visual media copyright, trends and technology, with IP attorney Nancy Wolff and other industry experts ready to address current issues around copyright, clearances/permissions, crowd-sourced images and video, social media, and options for bespoke content. The afternoon includes a session on trends in footage licensing, and tips to make the processes go more smoothly. The final session of the day will be a stimulating conversation, led by David Newhoff, on the price of creativity. Attendees can enjoy a complimentary lunch, snacks and beverages, including beer and wine after 5pm. There is also a free prize drawing, with a top prize worth $2,000, lots of cool giveaways and the usual great buzz.

Visual Connections is a marketing services company focused on connecting buyers with suppliers of photography, footage, illustration and other media. The company owners, Deborah Free and Edward Leigh, have over 40 years combined experience in the industry and have run trade fairs, for Picturehouse then Visual Connections, since 2003. Entry is free, but restricted to professional image-footage-art buyers and researchers. Full details may be found at visualconnections.com/newyork


Quotables: George Lois on Creativity

I recently rewatched Art & Copy. If you haven’t seen it, make sure you do. It is one of the most insightful looks at the advertising industry and filled with interviews with design icons. My favorite quote in the documentary was from famed Art Director, George Lois. He says, “I think creativity can solve anything … anything.” I would tend to agree. 

Looking for other design movies. Check out this great group of art and design flix.


What Will You Earn in 2016?

Guest Post by Diane Domeyer, Executive Director, The Creative Group

Here’s something to smile about: According to The Creative Group’s newly released 2016 Salary Guide, average starting salaries for creative professionals are projected to rise 3.8 percent in the coming year.

Following are five positions expected to see even bigger gains in 2016:

1. Multimedia Designer – 6.3% increase

2. User Experience (UX) Specialist – 5.9% increase

3. Creative Director (5 to 8 years of experience) – 5.0% increase

4. Mobile Designer (1 to 5 years of experience) – 4.6% increase

5. Illustrator (1 to 3 years of experience) 4.2% increase

To download a free copy of the 2016 Salary Guide, to see general dollar ranges, and to calculate local salary ranges using our online salary calculator, visit The Creative Group Salary Center.  The Creative Group (TCG) specializes in placing a range of highly skilled interactive, design and marketing professionals with a variety of firms.


Strong Showing By PhilaU Design Workshop

The Philadelphia University Design Workshop had a strong showing recently in the 2015 University and College Designers Association’s 45th Annual Design Competition. There were nearly 1,100 entries to this national design competition, and the industry professional judges awarded 165 total awards in a variety of categories.


The Kanbar Selects, volume 1 Publication won a Gold Award (one of only seven Gold Awards), while the website for the same project was awarded a Silver Award as well as an Award of Excellence. The Kanbar Selects, volume 1 project was a prime example of Philadelphia University’s signature Nexus Learning teaching style: active, collaborative, cross-disciplinary and very real world.



This team based project produced by Graphic Design Communication students and an Interactive Design and Media student was undertaken in the Philadelphia University Design Workshop course during the Spring semester 2015. Tabitha Ahnert, Sarah Driban, Jessica Eversmeyer, Bunley Lim were the designers of the publication; while Julie Johnson was the website designer. 


Professor and Program Director Frank Baseman served as Creative Director and Art Director on the project. Said Dr. Stephen Spinelli, Jr., President of Philadelphia University, “Congratulations to the wonderful team of students and faculty who are advancing design and proving the exceptional quality of a Philadelphia University education. And congratulations to Dr. Kanbar for his belief in, and enduring support of PhilaU!” The award winning work will be on display at the 45th Annual UCDA Design Conference, October 3–6, 2015 in Orlando FL.


Squat New York Helps Quinoa Cereal ‘Pop’ Off Shelves

Pereg Natural Foods is a family-owned company that has been in the business for over 100 years, specializing in over 60 varieties of gourmet food products. The latest addition to their lineup of ancient grains is this heart-healthy quinoa cereal — Quinoa Pops — a unique twist to the protein-packed powerhouse available in four fluffy  flavors.  Squat New York designed the packaging using “bubbly, eye-catching colors to match the delicious sweet flavors and playful crunch.”



Creative Director Shiri Kornowski notes that designing for a product that had never existed before was a particular challenge, but also left ample room for creative freedom. “Our process,” says Kornowski, “started with a strategic approach including the product positioning … We wanted to design the packaging in such a way that would properly convey the various ways the Pops could be used just by looking at it on the shelf – creating this visceral feeling of interaction with the product before even consuming it. We wanted the package to reflect feeling of joy while eating the cereal; touching upon all five senses especially taste … To match the delicious sweet flavors and playful crunch of the Pops, we worked with plenty of different color chips to find the perfect shade. We got our hands on the psychology of color… We created unique patterns that would appropriately express each flavor of Strawberry, Chocolate, Vanilla, and Original. Next comes combining these colors with illustrations such as a real strawberry or a chocolate bar to further enhance the consumer’s understanding of the actual flavor. It also allows consumers to know what to expect from the Pops flavor-wise.


“When we designed the typeface and logo, we used a cursive calligraphy technique to represent movement – something that is always in motion. Using blind embossing and elevated paper texture, we created the font to look three-dimensional so when people touch it, they can feel that it’s raised – a true “pop!” effect. Along with the font, we took things a step further by adding explosive lines and floating polka dots around it to add depth to the overall feel. These finishing touches evoke a playful look that make the Quinoa Pops truly pop out on store shelves.”




Spring Design Partners Bring Back Swizzle Stick

A classically trained chef, entrepreneur David Kanter loves cocktails, and he aspired to perfect classic cocktails by using traditional methods and high quality ingredients. The result is a new product launch — a single-serve, pre-mixed, full proof, and ready-to-drink bottled cocktail. For branding, Kanter turned to Spring Design Partners. The designers drew inspiration from the time when America’s love of the cocktail was born — The Prohibition Era — and the related name of Bamboozlers, whose original meaning was to be tricked or hoodwinked but that evolved into a slang term for describing a good drink. The branding system “tells a story of refined elegance with an edge.” The tie that binds is the swizzle stick across all the drinks, but each cocktail is identfied with an additional unique icon that connects to the Prohibition era. 


Erickson Stock: Beauty Comes From Inside Out

As we prepare for publication in early October of the annual showcase of GDUSA Health + Wellness Design Award™ winners, the editors wanted to take a moment to thank Ericksonstock.com for its sponsorship of this exciting competition since its beginning. Ericksonstock.com is a premier source for high-quality emotional lifestyle stock photos and video footage — more than 75,000 in all — with collections that include healthcare, business, travel, family and many other image libraries. The collections are the work of renowned assignment photographer Jim Erickson

health and wellness 4

Of its support of this competition, the Erickson team writes: “The Health + Wellness Design Awards celebrate the promotion and visualization of the human spirit at its best, which is the very core of our business at Ericksonstock.com … the unsurpassed quality of our imagery is directly related to our joy of capturing the human spirit, proving that beauty really does come from the inside out.”


Getting The Most From A Mentor

Guest Post by Diane Domeyer, The Creative Group

Being a successful creative professional involves always seeking out development opportunities and keeping your skills current. Finding the right graphic design mentor can take you to the next level. Following are five tips from The Creative Group for extracting the maximum benefit from this relationship:

1. Be enthusiastic.
It’s invigorating for mentors to work with professionals who are excited to advance their careers as opposed to those who drag their feet.

2. Set goals.
Share your career goals and discuss what steps you need to take in order to achieve them. Your mentor may have other suggestions based on his or her professional experience, so listen with an open mind. 

3. Communicate regularly.
The mentorship won’t bear fruit unless you connect and communicate on a regular basis, so get check-in dates on the calendar.

4. Go all in.
Prepare to be challenged in your role as a mentee. You won’t excel unless you are willing to take risks.

5. Be professional.
Be punctual, prepared and responsive to job requests. Treat your mentor with respect and courtesy. Listen attentively to feedback. 

For more advice on the mentor-mentee relationship, visit the TCG Blog.


Free Webinar From Monotype Offers Path To Perfect Font

With so many beautiful fonts in the world, how do you choose the right one? What do you think about? How do you get to that final selection? These are among the most difficult and important questions for graphic designers when pursuing a design solution for a client. Indeed, GDUSA readers tell us, year after year, that choosing the right typeface is among their biggest challenges and, when successful, among their most effective tools.

That’s why I am pleased to share with you that Monotype is presenting a free webinar on September 8 which will address this very topic. Entitled “Choosing Your Path To The Perfect Font”, this presentation will be led by Jamie Neely, Director of Product Design. Neely will guide attendees “on a journey of font discovery — from the type choice crimes of his early projects, through his personal process today, and the methods he’s seen designers execute during his years of user testing. He’ll share three strategies for finding fonts, why classifications are less useful than we think, and how self-awareness can lead to better font choices.”

jamie1 Jamie is a former creative director at the web design studio Front. He now spends his days at Monotype designing products that make it easier for designers to work with type — removing the frustrations and obstacles, and making typography fun. If you have used Monotype’s Typecast tool to prototype web pages in the browser or integrated their Web Font Platform into your design authoring tool, you’ve seen his work.

Choosing Your Path To The Perfect Font follows closely upon two very well-attended Monotype-sponsored webinars earlier this year addressing, respectively, Pro Tips for Picking Web Fonts and Color is Relative: Designing For Accessibility.  Needless to say, the company is a leading global provider of typefaces, technology and expertise for the branding, design and creative communities; this webinar series continues to burnish the reputation.

I have found Monotype’s previous 2015 webinars educational, inspiring, informative, fun. Not surprisingly, I have already registered for the latest offering and I recommend it to all of you.