All posts by apsdesign

Case Study – Xplosive Ape

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Xplosive Ape is a Clothing Apparel Business that’s only really been around for just over a year, but within that time it’s grown quickly as a business even sponsoring well known athletes in the world of strongman Eddie Hall (Britains Strongest Man and Worlds Strongest Man Competitor).

The basic concept for the Xplosive Ape is to have a clothing range that caters for the avid gym goers, the ones who are serious and make all sizes available, so larger guys and athletes alike have the option to wear comfortable clothing for training in the gym and still look good in other environments.

The Niches

The main niche was to be able to go up to 5XL and larger on request. More importantly, the business has a drive to go further with design lead creations, incorporating a gritty ‘go for it’ attitude to achieving your goals.

The Demographic and style

The main demographic is aimed at strongmen, weightlifters and body builders, basically anyone who is a training enthusiast.

Our Approach


First hand research shown a lot of the competition was only really printing their own logo designs onto different clothing and colours. Xplosive Ape wanted something else, something more bespoke and fashion led.

Looking at other brands that where successful in the fitness industry, American UFC clothing brands such as Affliction Clothing and Olimp fight and live, these gave inspiration towards the new gritty look we were aiming for.

We researched relevant images, illustrations and fonts anything that gave inspiration to the rough look we were looking for.


Old school illustration – using a hand drawn approach, tattoo art and mixing this into a new gritty style, emulating chalk , spray paint, and scratches brought about the rough looking style and approach we wanted for Xplosive Ape.

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We got on board near the beginning with a good understanding of what the client was after. We presented back Ideas of how the style could work, fonts colours and research of imagery and ideas that would help the design approach later on.

Within the research we mocked up the first tee shirt design Ape Rampage as an example, which the client loved and basically was one of the first bespoke designs to get printed up.

After this came ‘Don’t talk to me’. Both designs sold really well. After the initial success we then created ‘Ape Evolution’, based on the evolution of man but adapted to evolving back to a strong ape, and ‘Army of Apes’ which came about a little later, from an idea from Planet of The Apes. These too sold well and become top sellers.

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After initially doing just the tee shirt designs we then moved onto the collateral such as flyers, business cards, web and social media graphics. Moveover we have always been there to help and support Xplosive Ape get off the ground giving advice where possible to help get it looking and feeling as good as it should do.

Now we’re in the next phase of evolution (so to speak) a new website launched at the end of April, bringing it up to speed with an in-keeping gritty feel mixed with a fluid professional looking responsive site design, working across all platforms, with new graphics and banners to promote the new collections for 2015.

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Also we have started Email campaigns via mailchimp, using this simple yet effective resource, we’ve managed to create eshots how we want them to look to sit on brand and help further the professional look of the brand.

Shortly after the website re-launch we also worked on the Exhibition Design for the Body Expo at the NEC, this had a large graphic area around the one of the pillars of the Event Hall and the main stall at the side of this, so we kept it simple with a large logo and social media and large Eddie Hall graphics on the pillar and logo graphics on a red background on the back wall. This went really well and currently there is a video showing the Expo success on

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Working with a client such as Xplosive Ape can bring its own challenges, but it’s always a pleasure to work with them, from the creative freedom, being able to get back to basics, work on paper and mixed media again and to help lead them into the right direction knowing they are a company that listens to advice and relies heavily on its brand to succeed.




WordPress, the platform of choice

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WordPress has developed a long way since it’s humble blogging beginning. It has fast become a more intuitive and useful platform now used more and more as a content management system or CMS for many different website across the globe. Here are just some examples of fantastic websites out there which use this platform and build upon it to create beautiful responsive and engaging websites – click here

But why WordPress?

When I started out as a Freelance designer, early on I was asked to create a set of websites, at the time this meant relearning HTML, CSS, getting my head around snippets of java script and using some add ons to complete the job. Early on I also realised the importance of mysql databases, php and jquery, after a while it all starts to go over your head trying to learn how to use and implement all these codes as i wasn’t a born developer or web wizard! I started looking for other ways of building sites and came across WordPress as a solution.

WordPress takes a little bit of learning at first, the original layout still apparent even today as a base for blogging but has the ability to adapt to be a powerful CMS pretty easily.

The platform is created in PHP and utilises a mysql database taking a lot of hard work out of building a website. Obviously knowledge of such things and other codes is still very useful, and the more you know of anything the more you’ll get out of it, but fundamentally it gives you the tools  and base you need to create a website with all the functionality, automation and even responsive ability (in most themes) to create any professional site without having to touch any code if so needed.

Whats more WordPress has plenty of designers and developers creating fantastic templates and plugins for WordPress users. So even someone who is unfamiliar with the development side, can use these as a template for building and adapting intuitive and creative websites fairly quickly and with the possibility to manage there own content as well.

So in short, its way easier then starting from scratch giving you a platform to build on which is open source (free).

Provides a powerful CMS for websites that can be automated, responsive and completely customisable, giving the user the control they want.

It has plenty of plugins from e-commerce add ons, to comment forms, to whatever you can think of and themes which can give any site a professional finish with little more then adding your own brand and content.

It’s pretty user friendly as well. If you’re willing to learn it can be picked up fairly quickly on how to use or simply update content and it doesn’t require any technical knowledge of coding languages or even HTML to create a website.

find out more information on wordpress and what it offers here.

So what about Joomla and Drupal?

WordPress isn’t alone, Joomla and Drupal are two of the other big platforms used today for creating and maintaining websites by providing great content management systems. However neither platform is in use as much as WordPress is today.

Personally I have no experience on either Joomla or Drupal, from what I do know they are a little more technical to use, yet allow more control to the user and in some ways can be more streamline as well as having similar benefits, but for more information and a good comparison and explanation for each have a look here.

Inspiration from the streets of Berlin

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I’ve recently visited Berlin for the first time and I was taken in by all the graffiti and street art. Creativity is simply everywhere, littering the streets, from the standard graffiti text and tagging, to political statements and illustration, unregulated, free, regurgitated, overlaid, reused; the whole city has a wonderful array of inspiration for creativity and design, right on the streets and throughout.

From the bits of the Berlin wall that still exist, to local bars, cafes and shops, art is everywhere and stuff is covered in layers of graffiti, posters and flyers. We stayed in Friedrichshain which feels like ‘real Berlin’, its one of the main areas which is full of street art and has a rough yet vibrant and cool feel about the place. Most the photos are from around this area and the East Side Gallery. What I can say is if it stays still long enough it seems to become apart of the scene here.









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The importance of Brand Guidelines

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What are brand guidelines, and why are they important? When do you need them and what should be in them? – This article aims to try to answer these fundament questions about brand guidelines and help understand how they create a stronger brand and business model, so everyone can be singing off the same hymn sheet so to speak…

What are Brand Guidelines?

Brand Guidelines or brand books, style guides, brand standards, however you want to call them, is a guide to how your business communicates to its customer base. It sets out fundamental rules and guides about the business principles, ethos, the logo, colour palette, typography, imagery, photography, visual device, advertisement, stationery and wording. It acts as a flexible yet robust guide to helping you maintain a strong personality to your brand that will involve and aim your businesses interests at your intended audience.

Why are Brand Guidelines important?

Every company already has there own brand, even if they don’t know it, but without a guideline to help define it and keep it consistent among employees and outside sources it is difficult to maintain a brand which is strong and recognisable in the noise of today saturated markets.

Consistency as noted above, is important to maintain a strong brand, keeping everything with a similar tone, or design making sure it‘s more recognisable, with set rules and guides in place means its harder to stray off target.

It allows for more time, as without a guideline there is no substantial material to help with designing, time can be wasted on redoing design work or designs may go off on there own direction, weakening the overall brand. Templates save time as well, with a lot of the basic design work already set out, it can be a simple as just filling in the gaps with new content.

Brand Guidelines also give you something to support your argument with and something tangible to check back with and making sure the brand is being used correctly even if work is outsources.

When should you have Brand Guidelines?

Sooner rather then later is the simple answer, in a smaller business it might be okay without – say if your just the one person then its probably less essential because all the communication is coming from the same person so essentially its your personality adapted for your business. However, if the business grows to have more staff and as your business opens up to more channels of marketing communication, it becomes more and more apparent to have a brand guideline in place, to lay down the ground rules of your overall communication.

What should be included in a brand guideline?

First and foremost, a good guide is, well a guide; you have to make rules and some boundaries, but also keep it flexible enough to move forward and change and develop as the company changes and develops. This said here are some of the key areas a brand guideline will include:

Business Overview – its vision, personality, values and history.

Mission statement – include what your business wishes to achieve and maintain and promise to its customers.

Tone of voice – a brief description to how the company should represent tone of voice, this may also includes associating words (word banks), to help keep a consistency across different written content.

Logo Usage – how the logo should be displayed, size restrictions, space restrictions, colours to use and how it displays on different background and on different colours, as well as what not to do with the logo.

Colour palette – what colours are used in the brand with breakdowns and even hierarchy of colours.

Type style – the fonts and styles of elements such as headers, sub headers, paragraphs, small text (copyright text for example) and quotes should be considered, along with size ratios to each other.

Image style  – The style of images should be explained and examples of photography or illustration provided to get the general feel of the style. Usually Brand Guidelines are accompanied with a band of general images that may be used along side the literature.

Templates – usually starting with business stationery such as business cards, letterheads and compliments slips, these should be designed with the logo and brand in mind and set out as examples on the guidelines.

Additional templates for other literature such advertisements, posters, brochures, leaflets, POS, and even web based layout can all be included depending on the type of business and complexity you wish for your templates. But keep in mind, it’s a guide and it needs to be flexible, rules can be adapted and creativity still needs to play a key part to make sure your brand shows its own individuality.


Vector Art

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Here are some examples of vector art I’ve created with re drawing my own drawings or directly creating in Illustrator, mostly ideas for tattoos or tee shirt designs.












Easy to miss print setup issues

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So you have all your marks and bleeds set up, everything is in CMYK and it all seems to look ok on screen but when it comes back you notice some problems. Here we will go through some of the less known things and ‘easy to miss’ settings to look out for when setting up for print:

Colours under colour – when designing you may have more than one block of colour next to each other. It is good practice to make sure there is no overlapping colour where possible, as this can lead to creating a different colour where they overlap in print.

Get your blacks blacker! – when creating a block of black colour its good practice to have what is known as a ‘shiner‘ to get a richer black. So for instance your black set up is 100% K, this may come out greyer then expected in print because of dust and because it only uses one ink. To resolve this add either a 40% to 60% cyan to the mix. (no need to worry about type though as it only shows on large blocks of black colour).

Effects create border – sometimes effects such as drop shadows or glows around objects create a border around the object, this can be seen even in final print. This tends to comes up on the pdf but just check with your printer first, some of these can be resolved their end but to make sure it is good to check what PDF format you’ve got your final print ready file set to (The  latest PDF version is 2004).

Too much colour – if you print with all the ink you’re going to get blotchy work, which takes longer to dry. If you think of CMYK as 400% (100% for each colour) then you want to be using no more than 250% for one colour.

Pixel perfect – images for print need to usually be 300 pixels per inch (ppi) – you can check if the effective ppi is ok, say if you’ve cropped into the photo and using this larger on the page, it will be different to the actual ppi

Overprint fill – ok so you have a logo from illustrator and every time it is printed, some elements of the logo don’t show up on the print.  It looks ok on screen and shows on the PDF.  Well first things first, does it show in the overprint preview on InDesign or Illustrator? No? Ok this is an ‘overprint fill’ issue. In Illustrator you need to select the elements which disappear and go to your attributes window (Window>Attributes) and unselect the tick overprint fill – now check your over print preview to check it’s worked and resave.

Pitfalls of print

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When it comes to printing there are many things to look out for. You can have the best matching colour and have it all set up correctly but it can still print differently. Here are some of the reasons and things to look out for:

Different media and paper stock  – some whites are brighter and some are duller or off colour so can affect how the ink looks on the paper.

Textures  – If you’re printing on coated or uncoated paper stock for example this will affect how the ink sits, so on a coated paper (gloss or silk) it will sit on the surface and will be more vivid whereas on uncoated paper (like writing paper) the ink sinks into the paper being duller and can be less defined.

Too many printers – If you use different printers with the same specifications of paper and artwork it can turn out differently as well. Different printers will have their print presses set up to slightly different configurations, even with a profile consistency there are some elements which will change.

The temperature can affect how ink will dry and colour the media – yep this is quite a difficult one to get away from as we can’t always control this as well.

Light – Colour is different in light so this may be a reason, not such a bad one as the print may be fine, just where the collaterals have been placed, they may not give a consistent look. Plus bright light/sun light can eventually fade even the best inks.

Colour by design

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In this post I want to focus on colour, get a simple understanding of the fundamentals of colour within design by understanding what colour is and how it affects some fundamental decisions in design.

Colour is simply light. Different spectrums of light make up all the colours we can see. When a colour is added to a surface that surface reflects the least resistant light, so if it is red it will reflect red in our eyes.

With this in mind, when you use colours on a monitor, you use RGB – Red, Green, Blue. Mixing these 3 primary colours can create any possible colour we can see. This is because they use light to display the colours, so this opens up the whole spectrum of colour to us.

However as soon as you print something or add a colour to a surface in any way you no longer use light, so this means you have a limited spectrum of colour (and colour changes depending on the light around you).

For print we mainly use CMYK (four colour) – Cyan, Magenta, Yellow and Key (black), even though the spectrum is slightly lower than what is achievable in print, we can print many colours with CMYK, and all printers use this as a basic colour format.

Pantones are premixed colours, there are many pantones and these are really used best as block colours and can be used for consistency, say for a logo or brand or adding a special colour to a brochure – like metallics or brighter colours that can’t be produced with CMYK.

Design decisions involving colour

When designing a logo and brand, it is important that the colours you’re using are going to work across all the possible medias where the brand will be displayed.

When I choose a colour, I often go for a pantone first, finding a pantone with a close colour match to the CMYK conversion (in pantone books they often have the CMYK equivalent to the pantone colour).

Then work this backwards to and RGB colour, this way I know that the colour I have will be as close as possible to the printed version and keeps the consistency across the brand.  It also offers some flexibility within print; using pantones can add cost, as you are adding a 5th colour, so on cheaper runs of printed collateral you may be able to use just the four colours, CMYK. Pantone can be used as colours on their own as well, so if you’re printing something which has 2 colours they could be produced with pantone colours, so you can print with just 2 rather than using 4 colours (making up the two colours) which will possibly make it cheaper depending on the run of print you’re doing.

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