Client Spotlight: Black Bird Knits

skeins of yarn

Given the saturation of electronic media and virtual stimulation that has overtaken our lives, the increasing desire many people have for all things hand-made and home-made should be a surprise to no one. These elements of personal, tactile experience are a touchstone for removing ourselves from the sometimes mind-numbing constancy of bright screens and perfect, synthetically constructed products that surround us.

For any of you attuned to the hand-made realm, especially those specifically interested in fine prints and textile arts, we proudly introduce our talented friend and client, Kate Fisher of Black Bird Knits.

Skeins & Frames

Flight 9 had the pleasure of working with Kate to create her logo and her website, which launched in August of this year. We are so impressed with the elegance and excellent design quality of Kate's original, downloadable knitting patterns, each of which are expert-tested and include variations for size adjustments.

Kiko sweater pattern
youth sweater pattern
scarf pattern
hat knitting pattern

Those seeking fine craft décor will also love Kate's original, hand-pressed woodblock prints and notecards depicting black birds in a fanciful world of hand-wound yarn and knitted nests. Her pieces are perfect for knitting aficionados, in particular, but should be quite pleasing to any fan of hand print work.

Checking Gauge print
hand printed cards

Whether we are creating or observing, humans have always intuitively understood that art and craft can have powerful effects on our minds. As an experienced art therapist, Kate Fisher knows this well. You could say that Black Bird Knits builds on this background by trading in "yarn therapy" and "aesthetic remedies"! 

Visit BlackBirdKnits.com to learn more about Kate and browse her beautiful gift offerings… just in time for the holidays!

- Melissa

*All photos by Debra Wallace.

Client Spotlight: Kemmeter Wines

  Kemmeter Family Crest, bestowed by Emperor Albrecht II, 1438

Kemmeter Family Crest, bestowed by Emperor Albrecht II, 1438

As we've said before, our greatest satisfaction comes from helping give breath to the aspirations of other small businesses. While we sincerely enjoy collaborating with clients of all sizes and sectors, small businesses give us the satisfaction of witnessing the results of our successes not only in measurable returns but also in the excited, smiling faces of owners and their teams.

We've formed bonds with many such clients whom we now also count among our friends. In this spirit, we are debuting our Client Spotlight series, where we will profile the stories, successes and endearing qualities of clients we know you will love as much as we do.

Kemmeter Wines, Penn Yan, NY

One of New York's Finger Lakes wine region's newest additions, Kemmeter Wines, has a history quite unique to the area. Kemmeter's founder and owner Johannes Reinhardt descends from a wine-making family in Bavaria dating back 6 centuries. This pedigree, combined with extensive formal training in wine making and a deep love for the tradition, has helped make Johannes highly respected in the region for the excellent wines created in his care. Since their opening on August 1, 2013, Kemmeter has been a sought-after stop on Finger Lakes wine tours.

Johannes first came to the US in 1999 and worked for one year at Dr. Konstantin Frank Vinifera Wine Cellars before being hired as the wine maker for Anthony Road Wine Company, where he continues to supervise wine harvesting production. He credits John and Ann Martini, the owners at Anthony Road, with generously supporting his vision and helping make Kemmeter Wines possible. The two wineries are close neighbors in Penn Yan, allowing Johannes to maintain a consulting role at Anthony Road.

Specializing in Riesling varietals, Kemmeter offers 3 tiers of wines. Tastings in their lovely private tasting room are by appointment only, Thursdays through Saturdays, from 1:30 - 3:30 only, with a maximum of 6 people tasting at one time. For more info, visit: KemmeterWines.com.

 Riesling wine label series created by Flight 9

Riesling wine label series created by Flight 9

Flights of Wine with Flight 9

I was introduced to Johannes almost 10 years ago, when he was working as the winemaker for Anthony Road, and his dream of opening his own winery was in its early stages. The label concept for Kemmeter's first-tier Riesling, Sonero, was developed at that time. It is evocative of a fluid, dancing figure, while the name Sonero connotes a freestyle salsa singer.

Johannes then expected his green card to be granted within a couple of years, but he subsequently ran into a series of administrative roadblocks, delaying for several years his ability to establish a business in the US. Once those hurdles were finally overcome, Kelly and I worked with Johannes on refining the Sonero branding and creating labels for the Kemmeter mid-range line (simply called "Kemmeter") and SanSan, Kemmeter's most upscale offering. The middle-tier label reflects the idea that Kemmeter has a traditional flavor and serves as the anchor for the overall collection. Interestingly, however, Kemmeter is crafted rather nontraditionally, with its 3 distinct wines comprising a sub-series that is fermented from the grapes of 3 different vineyards (Sheldrake Point, Red Tail Ridge and White Pine Vineyards). The SanSan label has an artistic, romantic feel, which is appropriate because Johannes developed this particular wine as a loving homage to his wife. The sheet music element in the design is an excerpt of the beautiful orchestral piece Air by JS Bach.

 Johannes and Imelda Reinhardt

Johannes and Imelda Reinhardt


It has been an honor for us both to work closely with Johannes and his beloved wife Imelda – the muse behind so much of Johannes's fine work – to help communicate their vision and support the diligent hard work that goes into making Kemmeter the outstanding winery it has so clearly emerged to become.

We wish Johannes and Imelda the greatest future success and hope you will visit them next time you go to the Finger Lakes!

- Melissa

Hold the Hatchet! How to Critique Design Without Losing Your Creative Edge

Design decisions should be carefully considered, but it's important to avoid over-analyzing to the point where you lose the heart and soul of your concept and end up with something that makes you feel safe but actually puts you at risk of appearing unoriginal and boring. 

Below are some tips to refine your review process for optimum results.

focus group

Sometimes it's easy. Sometimes a concept is so fabulously inspired that everyone instantly agrees on its brilliance, allowing the joyful creative team to take a well-deserved, impromptu holiday at the beach after pocketing the time that had been set aside for several rounds of revisions.

At least I've heard of this happening.

For good reason, the design process normally requires considered cultivation on the part of the creative team, the client and sometimes other advisors. But, of course, balance is always key.

Design and the Brain: How We See Things

Left and right brain theory gets a little oversimplified, to be sure, but it's a paradigm most of us are familiar with, so I will employ that here. First, a review: In essence, the right brain is considered the center for creativity, impulsivity and gut reactions. The left brain is our more analytical hemisphere, where quantification and rational comparison prevail.

Always start with the right brain. What you want to do is make sure the "gotcha" comes first and then follow up with the practicalities: those details that ensure your compelling core concept is appropriate and does not fall apart at second glance. The early rounds of creative work on a given project should be primarily focused on identifying a visual strategy that will draw interest and bring emotional impact to your message or brand. This is the part where the biggest risks should be taken and primary goals should be flexible and uncomplicated. If you start with a long, strict list of details and requirements before you've allowed anything to freely flow, you are almost guaranteeing a tired, uninteresting end result. For this reason, it is often best to limit initial leadership to your top one or two most inspired internal players.

To be clear, this is not an anything goes scenario. Creativity thrives best when given just the right boundaries, and the ultimate goal of the project does not need to be thrown out the window here.  Just do not try to accomplish every objective in the first round. Make sure you have that gut impact in place before you worry about all the other desired outcomes. This core quality will speak louder than any amount of word-smithing or nit-picking can ever pull off.

Enter the critics. Once you've got a couple of strong options identified, then it's time to bring in the analysts. Here is where the left-brain perspective starts to come into play. Just be careful what you're asking during this phase … and how you listen.

 Throw me a literal bone.

Throw me a literal bone.

The most crucial thing to keep in mind during this part of the process is that, for the most part, your intended audience will never look analytically at your marketing and branding. While you or certain members of your team may feel motivated to unearth all possible errors, pitfalls or potential misinterpretations of the project, they are essentially turning off their right brains in order to look at things in this way.

An experienced client typically learns how to balance these sometimes conflicting ways of seeing, but, arguably, as you bring more people into the review process, the more likely you are to lose your grasp of the gut reaction you started with.

How can this be avoided? A lot of it depends on how you ask for feedback. Here are some suggested guidelines:

  1. Start by saying absolutely nothing. Try leaving mock-ups of preliminary concepts visible in key places without telling anyone you're looking for feedback. This most closely mirrors the experience your intended audience will have (because, in the real world, it is highly unlikely anyone will be standing there asking them to evaluate the work). This is your best chance to gather genuine, off-the-cuff, right-brained responses. Any feedback you get at this stage is, at the very least, proof that you have something interesting going on!

  2. Ask open-ended questions. If someone makes a comment or you notice their attention is drawn to the piece, try to dispassionately ask, "So what do you think?" Or even better, "Oh, you've noticed that? What caught your attention?" It may be helpful to write down and compile responses, but do it after the conversation is over so they don't feel like they are specifically supposed to be offering criticism.

  3. Don't share your opinion (yet). Whether members of the internal team love or hate the concept, they serve the process best by keeping this to themselves during these "unplanned" conversations. This takes some discipline, but it's worth it!

  4. Avoid focus groups. Yes, these can be helpful in certain situations, but in reality, the environment created is completely unlike any in which the audience actually lives and breathes. Again, once you ask people what they think and request their critical input, their left brains switch on and they start influencing each other in ways that are unlikely ever to be mirrored in the real world.

  5. If someone has to tell you to see something, it doesn't exist. This one is tricky to explain. Say your buddy Joe remarks, "Hey, that shape in the background looks sort of like Hillary Clinton!" Well, if several people independently notice the same thing, then it really does look like Hillary Clinton. But if no one else notices it? Then it does not, in fact, look like Hillary Clinton. Officially speaking. However – and this is the important part – if Joe tells everyone what he saw, then suddenly it will be real for all of them, forever. Do not let Joe convince you that everyone will see what he's seen, and do not let him spoil the broth. Hold that thought, until …

  6. Synthesize the results of this process privately with your team or a few trusted advisors. Start with a reminder as to why the given direction was chosen in the first place. Then allow everyone to share all feedback that was gathered. Try to put extreme or unusual responses aside if they are not echoed by others, keeping in mind that a concept that pleases everyone equally is often not your strongest choice. Also, weight the responses according to whether or not the person quoted is representative of your intended audience. If common responses become apparent, these are your key findings. These will inform the revision process, hopefully leading to clear, predictable end-results. If no common responses float to the top, then it may be that the gut response you're seeking hasn't yet been accomplished and more additional concepts need to be developed.

The ultimate goal is to make sure any revisions made to the creative direction you originally believed in are based on objective experiences of the concept that are as authentic as possible with regard to your intended audience.

In the end, taking disciplined steps like these will help ensure objectivity and should make you feel confident in the final product, even with ideas that might otherwise feel risky.

- Melissa