Elbowruminations: Two Years Later


How does a blog start? Well, if you’re Elbowruminations, it starts over the phone, in the summer of 2006.

“I have an idea,” Neil was saying. I was in Vancouver when Neil called from Calgary. We were getting ready for my year-long stint with Elbowroom, and Neil was pitching me one of our first collaborative projects. “Whether it’s a newsletter or a website, I don’t know, but we need to figure out a way to talk design with our clients on a regular basis.”

“When you get to Calgary,” he continued, “Let’s figure this out.”

Neil’s idea to transmit design-related content to our clients, suppliers and friends eventually transformed into a widely-read graphic design blog covering everything from new technology to corporate re-brands. Two years later, Elbowruminations has now published a total of 140 posts, which have garnered 105 comments from our readers. Today is our two-year anniversary of the first post on Elbowruminations, and we thought it would be fitting to mention a few highlights of our first couple years.


Calgary Public Library transit ads
I think one of the most exciting times to be a design blog like us is when the people responsible for the design piece you just critiqued end up stopping by to defend themselves. Case-in-point is the Calgary Public Library.

Neil posted a piece dressing-down the Library’s mystifying transit ads, labeling the ad “a few letters short of a bad first novel.” Library representative Grant Kaiser was quick to visit the comments section. “Libraries face 200 years of stereotyping,” wrote Grant. “With a $100 million advertising budget perhaps we could begin to fight it.”

We’re not looking to make people angry or hurt their feelings, but we’re excited when they start thinking more about good design. Out of this post and its comments came a design contract and a great relationship with the Calgary Public Library. What more could we ask for? Kudos to the Library for keeping an eye on their web reputation. It demonstrates a progressive, evolving institution – which ends up reflecting very well on the Library after all.


London 2012 Olympics logo
Next stop is London. When the logo for the London 2012 Olympics hit the web, Elbowruminations was one of the first design blogs to cover the craziness. It was a zoo of activity around here, with a flurry of comments and inbound links helping to bring graphic design perspectives to a globe of Olympic spectators. While our thoughts on the London logo have evolved a bit, the initial eruption of discussion and noise was a joy to be in the middle of.


Saksatoon Blades
On my favourite posts put together by Neil is his review of the Saskatoon Blades logo. I’d asked Neil to supply his “favourite design contribution of 2007” for our year-end round-up post, and Neil’s submission was a review of a logo for a hockey team in the middle of the Canadian prairies.

To this day, I’m still not certain if he was serious or joking, but regardless of its angle, it accomplished a couple of things. First, it was a glowing, honest and humble tribute to small-town Canada – you never get those get of adjectives on a design blog. Second, it served as an ironic roast of the design industry: in the midst of a post peppered with poise and pretense where people were gesturing grandly about global issues, Neil went in the exact opposite direction and headed to the hockey rink.


The Branding of Canada: Passports
Speaking of Canadiana, Neil mentioned over email that the Branding of Canada post was one of his favourites from the past couple years. A thorough look at the visual identity of our country, this post took a tour of the stamps, passports, flag, currency, signage, and typeface of Canada. The tour led us to the conclusion that Canada’s visual brand was consistent, strong and visually appealing. Interestingly, this assessment of Canada’s awesomeness was recently affirmed by Future Brand, a New York consulting firm, which surveyed travelers and discovered that Canada’s brand is second in the world, second only to Australia.


In 2008, we started trying out a few new things on this blog: first, we decided to get personal. With the recent site redesign, we dropped the corporate facade, showed our faces, and brandished our opinions. The design industry has always benfitted from candor and honesty, and we realized there was no point in pretending to be a huge design blog.

Second, we decided to narrow our focus. Our new tagline is “graphic design trends, tips and reviews” which is a big step away from the old tagline, “Graphic design thinking for everyone.” The thing we realized was, this blog ISN’T for everyone: it’s for small business owners and people interested in design. By making our focus and audience clear, we’re already seeing a sense of ease in the comments, and a renewed sense of clarity in our posts.

We hope you like the new approach. Our intent is to continue to bring you well-informed perspectives on the graphic design industry, in a way that makes you think, laugh, or at least come back again later. Tell us how we’re doing — if you’ve got thoughts about how we can do this better, some tips for stories we should cover, or even if you just want to share reactions to our two-year commemorative post, please leave a comment below. You’ll be richly rewarded with a lingering sense of satisfaction.