1. July 25, 2014

    Today marks CODO’s 5th anniversary, and that’s a nice round number. Five years ago, when Cody and I graduated from Herron and founded this business, people told us that our first anniversary would be a momentous occasion because, “Only 1 out of X businesses survive their first year.” Then, we heard it was actually 2 years. And then 3 years, and then 5 and 7 and 10. The goalposts will probably never stop moving, but I feel like this anniversary is a pretty big deal.

    The biggest thing this number represents is that internally, I feel like we’ve matured into whatever it is that comes after the start up phase—a teen business? Tween business?? That’s it folks, CODO has matured into a beautiful tween branding and web design firm. You’re probably wondering what that means. So am I, and I apologize. 

    Anyway, 5 years is a big deal for us, and rather than go on and on with weird, poorly constructed metaphors about success and maturity, I’ll just give you a run down of some of this year’s highlights. 

    The biggest thing we’ve done this year is hire Ryan Herrmann. Aside from being one of the funniest people we’ve ever met, he’s an incredible talent and is already fast on his way to becoming one of the area’s best designers. 

    Around this time last year, we survived a significant office robbery. Don’t worry, we recovered. And thrived, even. 

    After a two month marketing campaign, we launched Indianapolis’ most popular new food truck.

    After designing and launching dozens of client websites, we finally managed to launch CODO’s new responsive site. It’s not even six months old and we’re already toying with the idea of redesigning it altogether. We’re our own worst clients. 

    We won a Gold ADDY for our package design work on Bone Snapper Rye Whiskey. Now, we can join the thousands of design firms across the country that tout being “award-winning.” Ahhhh, victory! 

    We’ve been taking a new Nora brewpub, Big Lug Canteen, through our Hands-on Branding process since early summer. In addition to being fun to hang out with, these guys have hired us to name their brewery, design tap handles, beer labels, a responsive website and all the related ephemera you can think of. We feel this way with nearly every project, but Big Lug is shaping up to be some of the best work of our careers.  

    Our early package design work for Sitka Salmon Shares earned our team a trip to Alaska and since then, our branding, fully-custom e-commerce responsive website, marketing and print design have received an absurd amount of national, earned media (both for CODO and Sitka Salmon Shares) across many lifestyle publications, industry-defining design blogs, as well as a prominent feature in Entrepreneur Magazine.

    Additional highlights include branding Indianapolis’ newest Cultural District, Market East, as well as launching Ex. Ex., Midwest, a magazine examining midwestern food culture.

    On the digital front, CODO continued designing beautiful, robust responsive websites and this year saw the launch of several gorgeous ones for clients including: Daredevil Brewing Co, Sitka Salmon Shares, the Indy Food Council, Fresh Bucks Indy and Tree House Yoga.

    We’ve seen a big spike in paid speaking engagements across the country, including traveling to Wisconsin to present to the Stephens Point AIGA chapter as well as host an all-day workshop on our Hands-on Branding process. This thought leadership has also translated into writing on branding and positioning for the craft beer industry blog, Craft Brewing Business.

    And perhaps the most exciting thing as we head into our 6th year is that we essentially blinked and ended up working with 6 craft breweries—5 from Indiana and a brand new, yet-to-be-named production brewery in Sioux Falls, South Dakota. 

    As always, thanks to everyone who’s hired us, spoken highly of us, checked our egos, referred us, and kept up with us as we continue building this business. And thanks to our family and friends that continue to put up with us—it means a lot. Follow along as we mature into a healthy twenty-something design firm, or whatever it is that comes after the tween phase.

  2. July 24, 2014

    Here’s a sneak peek at the Ex. Ex., Midwest print proof. 

    Wanna eat pizza, drink beer and get your hands on our first print run? Then come to our kickoff party at Pizzology Mass Ave

  3. July 24, 2014

    CODO Design is now five years old, so we’re celebrating the only way we know how.

  4. July 22, 2014

    We’re taking a new brewpub in Nora through our Hands-on Branding process and are having fun exploring block printing for the broader art direction. 

    Any day you get to sketch cheeseburgers is a good day. 

  5. July 15, 2014

    If you own a riding lawnmower, there’s a good chance it runs on a Hydro-Gear transaxle. Hydro-Gear is one of the largest transaxle manufacturers in the world and we’ve been helping them reposition and better define their brand messaging to continue reaching B2B market as well as speak more directly to consumers.

    Here’s a peek at some of the design pieces we’ve been making. This one introduces their new ZT 4400, a rugged commercial unit.

  6. July 7, 2014

    Fresh Bucks is a new program that incentivizes SNAP users (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program) to shop at local farmers’ markets, giving them access to healthy, local food while supporting local farmers. Win, win! Initiatives like this have been gaining steam across the country as states start to tackle hunger and local food issues more holistically. We were approached by the Fresh Bucks coordinators to handle brand strategy, identity design, advertising and responsive web design in support of the program rollout. 

    After a lengthy research phase, there were two aesthetic options we developed with the Fresh Bucks team, each conveying a different message. The first was a cleaner, more “official” government look—something folks receiving SNAP and other support would recognize and trust. Think clean type, color-coding and large photographs.

    The second visual direction was based more on the approachable farmers’ market vibe. Think slightly roughed-up typography, burlap, DIY illustrations and Birkenstocks (still reading? just checking). Anyway, this direction screams “farmers’ market,” but is it appropriate? Everyone on our team has been fortunate enough to view farmers’ markets as a part of our weekly shopping routines, call it a luxury. But is this messaging appropriate for people who may not know much about farmers’ markets? How about for people who live right in the middle of a food desert? 

    Working with the Fresh Bucks team was great because we didn’t have to tip toe around these concerns. So while we all felt both options were contextually appropriate, we decided to take a sample from each direction to a food bank for some further research. There, we asked around forty people, “Which one of these would you pick up? Which one of these makes more sense? Which one of these do you trust more?” and so forth. The results were very one-sided with the majority of SNAP users preferring the more “official” government aesthetic. 

    From there, we were off to the races, designing mailers to go out to the SNAP database (approximately 95,000 postcards!), developing print literature to be handed out at food banks and churches, developed loads of signage components for farmers markets (both for the Market Master and for participating vendors) as well as wooden nickels for the redeemable cash system itself. We also designed a series of IndyGo bus ads to further reach potential audiences.

    We coordinated a photo shoot with Kelley Jordan to showcase the type of food you can get through the program and the majority of what we designed was translated to Spanish and Burmese. We’ve used Spanish translators in the past, but Burmese was certainly a first. 

    The photos above are some of the print pieces and wooden redeemer nickels. So much thought went into the responsive website that we’re going to break that out into its own post in the next few weeks. In the meantime, you can view it here.

    The farmers’ market season is young, but we’ve already been hearing some exciting usage numbers from the Fresh Bucks team. Stay tuned and we’ll develop a more thorough case study later this year.

  7. June 30, 2014

    Our print design work for Sitka Salmon Shares was just featured on the popular design blog, FPO! 

    Click here to see the larger post. 

    Also included in our feature was a never-before-shared pocket guide for helping midwesterners buy safe, ethical seafood.

  8. June 25, 2014

    We wrote another branding article for Craft Brewing Business. This one’s about about how a craft brewery can define its Brand Essence. Check it out on their site or read it below if you don’t feel like clicking the link.


    When branding a microbrewery, or any organization for that matter, people tend to jump straight to aesthetics right off the bat. “We want our logo to look vintage, but contemporary. A little bit rustic with just a touch of whimsy.” I still don’t know what “whimsy” means, but the cool thing about owning a design firm is that when you nod emphatically during meetings while taking a few notes, people trust you. Weird.

    Anyway, the problem with jumping straight to aesthetics is, before you get to that point, you need to form a deeper understanding of your “brand essence.” This fluffy-sounding concept is actually very important because it cuts straight to the heart of your brand. What do you stand for? What’s the most compelling aspect of your company? What’s your biggest differentiator and value proposition? Why should people support you? What role should your brewery play in their lives?

    Once you have a grasp on these ideas, you can move on to the visual side of the house. If you go this route, your brand essence and the wider collection of surrounding ideas should directly inform your branding (identity design, responsive website, package design, marketing, etc.) so that someone sitting in a bar, perusing tap handles will see yours and immediately understand why he or she should buy your beer.

    While we don’t want to give away all our secrets, we thought it would be fun to share a few questions we ask during the initial research phase of a branding project. These are part of a larger list of questions and tools we use to frame potential brand essences for clients, and again, this all happens before we ever put pencil to paper sketching beer packaging or before we ever consider break points on a responsive website.

    • In plain English, what is Brewery X? What do you offer?
    • What’s the coolest thing about Brewery X?
    • Why does Brewery X matter?
    • Describe your beer. Who will drink your beer? Who do you want drinking your beer?
    • What role should Brewery X play in your customers’ lives?
    • Describe some competition? How is Brewery X different?
    • What emotions should your branding evoke?

    Some other thoughts to make the most of this exercise:

    1. Talk to a variety of stakeholders

    We like to talk to as many different stakeholders as we can, from the top level of the company on down to the frontline guys. A common example when we’re working with a brewery is to interview the head brewer, any additional owners, delivery drivers, cellermen, tasting room staff and distributors, as well as ardent volunteers and customers.

    The cool thing about talking to a wide variety of people is that you’ll quickly see patterns emerge from your conversations. And despite what a lot of agencies want you to think, branding and design aren’t rocket science. Ideas that come up again and again are often great contenders for your brand essence.

    2. Talk to folks, one-on-one

    Over the years, we’ve interviewed large groups of people together and individually and consistently get better results when we talk to people one on one. This can be even more powerful when the folks you’re talking to understand that at this stage, there is no wrong answer. Branding is all about emotion and storytelling, so discussing the first thing that comes to mind can often be very powerful.

    What we’ve found in hosting large-group discovery sessions is that the group dynamic tends to dominate free conversation. Common occurrences are a Type A person will talk and talk and talk and talk and eventually, the more introverted people in the group will just say, “Yes, we agree with what the obnoxious guy said,” which means you’re missing out on the quieter person’s opinions and ideas.

    3. Value design and hire a professional

    You didn’t think you’d finish this article without hearing our plea, did you? If you’ve actually read to this point (hi mom!), then you’re probably already thinking about your brewery’s branding and positioning in a deeper way than merely aesthetics. That means you value design and realize how important an element it is in becoming a successful brewery. An agnostic set of outside eyes can be a great help in organizing your team’s thoughts and can become even more invaluable as the time comes to translate all these ideas into beautiful, compelling, smart, and — what the hell — whimsical design.

  9. June 23, 2014

    Bill and Nolan, of Crossroad Vintners, are some of our favorite people to work with. They’re funny, they’re smart, and they regularly hire us to design whiskey packaging! 

    After branding Backbone Bourbon, Bone Snapper Rye, and their soon-to-be-released Bone Dry Gin, they decided to develop a corporate identity and stationery system for Backbone Bourbon Company.

    Western iconography + whiskey indexes = a happy CODO team! These beautiful cards were letterpressed by Faulkenberg Printing Co. and we’ve got honest-to-god barrel-burning branding irons and custom leather flasks in the works. 

  10. June 13, 2014

    We were recently interviewed by Online Courses Review as part of their Expert Dialogue Series. Check out the intro below and click the link for the full conversation.


    At Online Courses Review, we love graphic design and its capacity to create a brand’s story through images and text. We especially love design that is doing something wholly unique, creative, and bold. As such, we were blown away when we came across the inimitable CODO Design. CODO’s knack for telling a story is masterful and this is evidenced in their award winning design.

    After being astounded by their design, we reached out to them to find out more about what makes CODO’s design so spectacular and to learn more about the ingenuity behind CODO’s production process. The following is an email interview between CODO Design founders Isaac Arthur and Cody Fague.

    Read the rest of this piece over at: http://www.onlinecoursesreview.org/codo-design-interview/