Illustration

The OMG Friends!

The OMG Friends are a family of pocket-sized adventure plushes that I created, mass-produced, and developed into a product line.

This project represents a very extensive body of work including: Creative Direction, Character Design, Illustration, Print Design, Photography, Marketing, Product Design, Web Design, Logo Design, Copywriting, and many other business-y things.

Project Objective: To create a brand and eCommerce website that delighted, enticed, and introduced the world to a new and beautiful family of wonderful products. 

This was a mammoth project that I worked on full-time with angel investors for two years. Strap in, because there's a lot of cuteness below. 

omgfriends.com

Examples of the eCommerce site where the OMG Friends were marketed and sold.

Brand Identity

The OMG Friends logo was designed to embody the delight and excitement that people express when first seeing the critters. I created a custom typeface for the word "friends" to lend a friendly and handmade feel to the logo.

 

 

Sgt. Peepers the Adventure Owl

This is Sgt. Peepers the Adventure Owl. He is a seasoned world-traveler whose favorite means of transportation is riding in pockets. 

Butterscotch the Adventure Bunny

This is Butterscotch the Adventure Bunny. He enjoys candlelit cabbages and long walks along produce departments. He can frequently be heard asking “what’s for dinner?” and “are you gonna eat that?”

Truffles the Adventure Pig

This is Truffles the Adventure Pig. She loves warm socks, pancakes, books about quantum mechanics, and going to the library. It's not uncommon to hear her say things like “Do you have a library card? Let’s go get some books! Oooh! and french fries!”

And in case you're wondering, that is a tiny glass of milk and miniature books that I made. :) 

Shipping & Retail Display

The OMG Friends traveled to their new homes in stylish cardboard boxes, and congregated in retail shops in the beautiful wooden boxes you see below. 

Plushes to Illustrations

Most of my work begins with sketches, but I designed the OMG Friends through a process of iterating hand-sewn plushes. I eventually had to work my way backwards and figure out how to draw 2D versions of what I'd only known as 3D critters.

Scout Books & Postcards

I love finding old journals and getting to review what my life was about back then. That was the inspiration for these OMG Friends Scout Books. Each Adventure Journal has 32 blank pages, that are perfect for recording bits of epic journeys and general life-bits, and they’re high-quality, meaning they’ll be around for years to come. :)

Doernbecher Children's Hospital Donations

I had the opportunity to donate a few hundred OMG Friends! to Doernbecher Children's Hospital on Christmas Eve. Stuffed animals weren't going to cure what was ailing any of those precious wee ones, but love and delight are excellent medicines, and the OMG Friends! had a lot of both to give.

Miscellaneous Cuteness

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Related Project

Be sure to check out the OMG Friends' Halloween Mask Activity Sheet project for more cuteness and delight. 

Muse Storytelling, Inc.

Muse is the patent-pending storytelling process developed by 5-time Emmy Award-Winning video production company, Stillmotion.

My contributions to this project included: Art Direction, Visual Design, Branding Design, Copywriting, Development of Educational Iconography and Conventions, and Print Design.

As Art Director for the organization, I used feedback from the founders and their customers to completely redesign the preexisting brand, educational collateral, and to develop visual communication conventions that would extend through all of the company's offerings.

A brand had been developed before I came on board, but the overall response was that it was "cold," "too masculine," and "confusing." A complete overhaul was needed to convey the intended tone and reduce confusion in learners. 

The objective was to make it clear, succinct, and friendly, while still conveying authority. 

Final Revised Poster & Iconography

Simplicity is frequently mistaken as the result of an equally simple process, but arriving at what you see below was remarkably complex (we'll review the process and my thinking in detail below). A great deal of work was required to whittle down the depth and nuance of the Muse Storytelling system into an easily digestible reference and educational poster.

 

 
  Final Revised Poster   Simple, clean, & clear

Final Revised Poster

Simple, clean, & clear

 

The Preexisting Visual Design Convention

At first pass the original poster looks cool, but in use, the visual conventions and design bells-and-whistles break down. There are many mixed metaphors being used, and the intended meanings behind various icons don't come across well.

The poster has to convey information that is really complex, so simplifying the poster required a lot of work and thoughtfulness.

Preexisting Design

 
  Preexisting Poster   Very busy & confusing to learners

Preexisting Poster

Very busy & confusing to learners

 

The Big 3 Things

The Muse Storytelling process is for telling stories about people. And in the Muse framework, a strong character has to have 3 things: complexity, uniqueness, and desire. The character who possesses high ratings in each and lends themselves to telling a compelling story is chosen to be the "Heart" (or main character) of the story. 

Preexisting Design

To effectively redesign the components of the brand I had to learn the Muse process inside and out, but I couldn't make sense of a lot of what I was seeing. This heart represented a very key concept, but the intended meaning was obscured by conventions that were too subjective.

The hatched pattern was meant to convey “complexity,” but that only became apparent after someone told me that's was the intended meaning. Also, the markers point at different parts of the heart implying that's where those traits are found, but I couldn’t make sense of why they would be located in those places. It seemed arbitrary. 

 
 

Final Revised Design

The final graphic I created shows three distinct and clearly interrelated parts that make up a "Heart," and the labels now clearly demonstrate the Heart's anatomy and that the three combine to make a whole.

 

 
 

The 4 Layers of Place

Next comes the 4 Layers of Place. This is what lends a story the authenticity required to transport the audience into another world. The 4 Layers of Place are: Location, Objects, Situation, and Time.

These are not easy concepts to succinctly communicate graphically. :)

Preexisting Design

When I first saw these icons I thought "house, football, romance, and clock." Granted, there is always going to be some risk of possible misinterpretation in abstract iconography, but what these conveyed was pretty far from the intended meaning. 

 
 

Sketching

To lend a more human and warm feeling to the final graphics, I sketched many ideas and eventually landed on a set of icons that would become final.

Final Revised Designs

Here they are! The final set of icons for The 4 Layers of Place. You wouldn't catch this yet, but the shape of the mountain mimics the Muse Plot Arch (which you'll meet a little further on).

Purpose Lens & "Chain"

Identifying the purpose behind the story you want to tell is required if you're going to say what you mean to say. As such, Purpose is a key concept in Muse. 

Preexisting Design

The shape of the original graphics were meant to represent the aperture of a camera lens, but it was a little esoteric and easy to miss. Also, the company wanted to move beyond just speaking to filmmakers (their initial audience), and the aperture reference would be lost on a lay-person.

 
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Final Revised Design

In Muse, Purpose is the lens you use to focus your message. I developed the aperture concept from the previous design into a graphic most people would recognize and be able to quickly understand the implied meaning. 

Plot Arch

Ok, this was a really tricky one. Plot is an extremely complex concept that has several interrelated components that needed to come across clearly.

Preexisting Design

Hoo boy. There's a lot going on here. There are many superfluous deign embellishments that are confusing if you're looking to the graphic for educational information.

The wavy line between the punching glove and fishing hook was meant to convey the "bob and weave" of a narrative's arch; the Heart in the upper left of the Plot Arch is just decorative; the... ok, I'm going to stop there—looking at this thing makes me dizzy. :)

 
 

Sketching

Sooooooo many fun sketches came out of exploring how to both simplify and expand this concept. Here are a few. 

The Six Universal Conflicts

Before getting to the final Plot Arch design we need to make a quick detour to The Six Universal Conflicts. The Plot Arch represents the "shape" of the Heart's story, but it's one of the Six Universal Conflicts that starts the whole journey. 

Preexisting Design

 
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I wanted to find a way to unify the Six Universal Conflicts with the Plot Arch to show how they're connected. 

Final Revised Design

 
 

The angled shape of the Plot Arch demonstrates the crescendo of intensity (or tension) in the story; the anatomy markers at the top show where the 6 Essential Plot Points (i.e., Hook, Ask, Acceptance, Hurdle, Answer, Jab) ideally fall; the markers at the bottom remind the user of the generally best-practice story formula of 25% / 50% / 25%; and the nuggets at the top represent The Six Universal Conflicts that initiate a journey. 

I told you it was complex. :)

Bringing it All Together

All of these icons and conventions then needed to be unified into a clear, concise, and beautiful poster for people to learn with and reference as they create their work.

Here is the final revised poster again. The Heart goes on a journey through one of the Six Universal Conflicts, and works its way through the primary Essential Plot Points of the Plot Arch.

 
 

Founder Testimonial

As the co-founder of Stillmotion and Muse Storytelling, two companies that have worked with hundreds of designers in our 10+ years, Ryan is without a doubt one of the most talented folks I’ve ever worked with and we were incredibly fortunate to have him shape our brand.

He’s incredibly detail oriented, is always ensuring that he’s considering the bigger picture, and has a rare talent for bringing intention and purpose to everything he crafts.

I’ve never worked with an Art Director or Designer that brings the same level of passion and commitment to what he does as Ryan.

Patrick Moreau
Co-Founder of Muse Storytelling & Stillmotion

Related Project

Be sure to check out the Muse Storybuilder project to see how this rebranding effort informed the creation of Muse Storytelling's flagship SAAS offering. 

Muse Storybuilder Launch Ad

My contributions to this project included: Art Direction, Visual Design, Illustration, Character Design, and Branding Design

This is an ad created for the Muse Storybuilder launch campaign. The plot arch above Kathryn's head has various illustrations floating around it representing ideas in a brainstorm, and you can see the ideas beginning to be attached to key points on the plot arch to create a strong story. 

I think we're witnessing the birth of a story about a dragon, a cupcake claimed in the name of love, and a beaver with a unicorn horn brandishing a magical sword? Who knows. What we do know for sure is that a chicken leg, a fork, and a wizard hat have no place in this story.

Related Project

Be sure to check out the Muse Storytelling rebranding project as well as the Muse Storybuilder project that this ad promotes.

Brand Identities

This is a collection of a few brand identities I've created.

My contributions to these projects included: Creative Direction, Visual Design, Branding Design, Brand Identity Creation, and Illustration.
 

Ideas with Heart

My freelance business-entity used to be Ideas with Heart, LLC. I developed (and kept) the concept of “Ideas with Heart” because I strive for solutions that are intelligent, clever, and that move people emotionally.
 

Bogus Belief Busters

Bogus Belief Busters is a personal development brand that brings edginess and humor to the topic of self-improvement.

The final concept represents the idea of false beliefs as a sort of thought-bubble villain. 

Logo Concept Sketches

So Many Iterations

Logo Evolution

A little insight into the iteration process that goes into finding the right visual balance of elements. What you see below is a few of the many many many many adjustments made on the way from idea to finished piece. 

The OMG Friends

The OMG Friends are a family of pocket-sized adventure plushes that I created and developed into a brand. The logo was designed to embody the delight and excitement that people express when first seeing the product line, as well as the excitement for life that the characters embody.

I created a custom typeface for the word "friends" to lend a friendly and handmade feel to the logo.

Brand Identity in Action

Gen Equity PACs

Gen Equity PACs is a Southern California-based political action committee that is committed to improving education, opportunity, and security for future generations. Their brand identity had to incorporate the stylized “G” from the preexisting Gen Next branding (their sister organization), while clearly establishing its own identity.

This logomark represents a cornerstone, which is the first and most important block laid when creating a structure. This concept speaks to the organization's solidarity, strength, and resolve to pioneer lasting change.

 Vertical Orientation

Vertical Orientation

 
 Horizontal Orientation

Horizontal Orientation

Logo Concept Sketches

These are a few pages of sketches from early brainstorming sessions. These concepts didn't make it into the final design round, but they're fun visual notes. 

Core Home Fruit

Core Home Fruit is a pruning and consulting business owned and operated by fruit-growing expert, Monica Maggio. Monica needed to expand her existing brand to more clearly communicate with potential clients while maintaining the brand-recognition she'd already established.

Preexisting Brand Identity

I decided that creating an aesthetic reminiscent of 1950s kitchens and homemaking would do well to express the warm fuzzies that can come from growing your own fruit. The client loved this idea. Typefaces were selected to communicate a friendly yet professional tone. 

Redesigned Brand Identity

Core Fruit Institute:
Branding in Action

A complimentary brand palette and identity was created for Core Home Fruit's educational branch, Core Fruit Institute. This is a promotional poster that was hung in local fruit-nerd-friendly establishments. 

Client Testimonial

Ryan's talents, expertise, creativity, and insights combined brilliantly to craft a brand that perfectly represents me and my business. Working with him was fun, very productive, and has enabled me to take my business to the next level. His work has significantly boosted my confidence in marketing my business, and my business has exploded with success. I look forward to working with him as my business continues to grow.

Monica Maggio
Fruit Growing Expert



Masterplans

Masterplans is coming up on their fifteenth anniversary of being in business, and needed a refreshed brand identity and website as part of a major reboot. The new identity needed to reflect the passion and expertise of the team, better convey the high-quality of their services, and differentiate them more clearly from their competition. 


 

 

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Mix Restaurant

Mix is the flagship restaurant at the Anaheim Hilton in Southern California.

Toe-Rific

Toe-Rific is a novelty candy company that was created by a podiatrist, and the product they're best known for are chocolate feet. Toe-Rific's products are quirky and unique, and the brand was designed to be playful yet refined. 

 

Hug the Universe

Hug the Universe is my blog where I tell stories about my life, share insights that have helped me overcome some extremely challenging life-circumstances, and create cute illustrations.

My contributions to this project include: Creative Direction, Visual Design, Web Design, Squarespace Development, Branding Design, Brand Identity Creation, Illustration, Writing, Copywriting, Marketing Strategy, Character Design, and Photography.

www.hugtheuniverse.com

 
 

Billy the Flying Elephant

 

This is a 1-panel comic I created based on the Chinese proverb "people who say it cannot be done should not interrupt those who are doing it."

Behind the Scenes with Billy

 

A time-lapse video showing the process of creating the flying elephant illustration. 

Super-Buff Unicorn

This is an image I created for my inaugural post and later made into wallpaper as one of several incentives for Patreon supporters. 

Tidal Wave of Joy

Another nugget of delight from my inaugural post.

Bob from Accounting

This is Bob. He's from Accounting.

HTU Brand Identity

 

 

 
 

 

HTU Logo Design Sketches

I designed the "XO" in the Hug the Universe logomark to be adaptable to other conventions. This shows an alternate "skull and crossbones" version of the logomark I haven't unleashed on the blog just yet. :)

Drawing Cute Stuff (Time Lapse)

Angry Caterpillar

A stubborn little caterpillar from post 4 of 4 in a series about consciousness research and the hidden determinants of human behavior: Did You Know the Sun Used to Orbit the Earth?

Baby Buffalo

This is the baby buffalo from my post about The Incredible Hidden Gift in Meaninglessness.

Happy World

This is the hero image for the inaugural post on Hug the Universe: Who Else Wants to Live in a Happier World?

Dubious World

This is the hero image for post 4 of 4 in a series about consciousness research and the hidden determinants of human behavior: Did You Know the Sun Used to Orbit the Earth?

Crazy World

This is the hero image for post 1 of 4 in a series about consciousness research and the hidden determinants of human behavior: Why Is the World So Crazy?! The Hidden Determinants of Human Behavior.

Donald Trump World

This is the hero image for post 3 of 4 in a series about consciousness research and the hidden determinants of human behavior: Revealing the Hidden Danger in the 2016 Presidential Race.

Confused World

This is the hero image for post 2 of 4 in a series about consciousness research and the hidden determinants of human behavior: How Can We Know What to Believe in Such a Confusing World?

HTU Sign-Off Illustration

This is the sign-off image used at the end of my series about consciousness research and the hidden determinants of human behavior.

The Ne'er-Do-Well

The Ne’er-Do-Well is a literary magazine that publishes what they lovingly refer to as “misfit lit.” The magazine is operated by Sheila Ashdown, a professional writer and editor, and proudly self-proclaimed book nerd.

My contributions to this project include: Creative Direction, Visual Design, Web Design, Illustration, Character Design, and Photography.

Sheila wanted to create a website and brand that spoke to the “oddly universal experience of feeling like the odd one out,” and the challenges writers often experience in pursuit of their craft (things like writer’s block, crippling self-doubt, “get a real job” mentality, and other writerly tribulations).

So, we embarked on a journey to discover how to convey that in a way that was clean, cute, lighthearted, and contemporary (desired traits identified in our discovery phase). 

The concept that hit all the desired targets was that of a black sheep pirate named “Black Baaa.” The concept is literary (pirates), personifies the feeling of being the odd one out (a black sheep), and represents the ethos of “misfit lit” (also pirates). 

Skull & Crossbones

How do you visually combine the pirate theme with the experience of frustrated writers? With a skull-shaped crumpled-up typewriter page over broken pencil crossbones, of course! I whipped up some sketches of this concept, showed it to Sheila, and got an enthusiastic “YES!”

The Birth of Black Baaa

So, what does a black sheep pirate look like? Who knows?! I consulted my sketch pad for the answer. What you see below are some of the sketches that became the final design for Black Baaa the Pirate. 

The Kraken

Every good hero needs a villain, and what better villain for a black sheep pirate writer than a discouragingly critical kraken? 

During the discovery phase, Sheila realized that she's drawn to sites that have “scenes.” So I created a scene for the footer of her website with Black Baaa’s ship battling a discouraging kraken (who apparently only reads bestsellers and thinks Black Baaa’s writing sucks). 

That kraken is clearly kind of a butthead. This was the process of creating him. 

Updated Kraken Illustration

When we updated Sheila's website to launch v.2 I reworked the footer illustration for use as a hero image.

Website Design

Facebook Cover Image

Headshots

  Sheila Ashdown  Founder & Managing Editor

Sheila Ashdown
Founder & Managing Editor

  Grace Gallagher  Editorial Assistant

Grace Gallagher
Editorial Assistant

Client Testimonial

Before I started working with Ryan, I felt aimless and stressed about my website project. I’d worked with three other designer/illustrators and was never completely happy with the outcome—mostly because I wasn't able to fully articulate what I wanted. (I’m a writer—not so great with the visuals.)

Then I found Ryan, and he totally rescued the project for me. He started with a thorough discovery process that was unlike anything I’d experienced with a designer. He asked all the right questions and had a seemingly magical ability to draw out ideas that I didn’t even know were inside me. And he really listened. The theme he came up with (a literary black-sheep pirate) was totally spot-on. As soon as I heard it, I thought, 'I didn’t know that I wanted a black-sheep pirate theme, but hell yeah, that’s exactly what I want!' I laughed with delight for about 5 straight minutes when he presented it to me.

Honestly, I get a little emotional looking at my website, because I’m just so thrilled and delighted with it, and have gotten nothing but enthusiastic feedback. He put such heart and care into my project, and I feel grateful to have found him.

Sheila Ashdown
Professional Writer and Editor

OMG Friends Halloween Mask Activity Sheet

The OMG Friends love creative projects. They also love dressing up! This is a Halloween activity I created for fans to complete with their OMG Friends adventure plushes.

My work on this project included: Creative Direction, Illustration, Character Design, Print Design, and Photography.

Sketching Ideas

Testing Designs

Final Activity Sheet

Related Project

If you're wondering who the OMG Friends are, be sure to check out this project

Kinokophonography Event Poster

Kinokophonography is a collective that organizes live social events for people who are interested in field-recording.

My contributions to this project included: Creative Direction, Graphic Design, and Illustration.
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Kinokophonography is a field-recordist collective that started in Manchester, England, and is now centered in New York. They create community and host live events where field recordists can share and listen to their field recordings.

"Kinoko" is the Japanese word for “mushroom"; "phone" pertains to sound (e.g. telephone, microphone, headphone); and “graphy” relates to a style or method of doing something. The founders of the group used a microphone head on a mushroom stalk as their mascot, which I expanded on for this poster. 

WebLively Infographic Banner

WebLively is an online platform that helps patients better coordinate and collaborate with their team of health professionals.

My contributions to this project included: Creative Direction, Graphic Design, Illustration, and Copywriting.

This infographic was created for use as a large banner at live events. To do its job at these busy events, the infographic needed to clearly communicate the concept and features of WebLively, show how it empowers its users, and convey friendliness and approachability. 

Planning

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Digitizing Graphics

Final Infographic