Working at Creative Mellen has been the final step in my college journey, and I’d argue it might be the step that’s prepared me the most.

In the 5 years I’ve been at the University of Iowa, I’ve come a long way. I started off as a business analytics student before being exposed to design & advertising through an internship. Since then, it has consumed my college and personal life and plays a huge part in all my current goals. Design classes, marketing classes, freelance work, and personal projects have all provided me opportunities to grow as a designer and as a person, but left out an important piece of the puzzle — collaboration. Critiques in my design courses, client meetings in the Marketing Institute, and networking for freelance opportunities all got close to filling the gap, but going into the final summer I was still struggling with the idea of sharing the design process with another. 

For this reason, I couldn’t asked for a better capstone than Creative Mellen to round out my college experience. Kevin doesn’t just run the design studio, he works alongside you at every step of the way. Working here feels more like a partnership than an internship, something I will never take for granted in the future. It has given me an entirely new perspective on what it means to collaborate in design and has shown me the importance of doing so. 

There’s a reason that companies are always looking for “team-players” while hiring. Thank you Creative Mellen for providing me the space to grow into that role!

Starting Creative Mellen in 2012 has been quite a journey. Who would have thought we could work with one of the top retail companies in the country, travel to Italy to help rebrand a study-abroad program, partner with a startup to market its products on Amazon, and establish a long-term relationship with an innovative containment company in Pennsylvania?

Spanning a variety of industries—from a local doggie daycare and actors in Los Angeles to a growing cybersecurity firm—we continue to collaborate with clients from coast to coast. From short-term relationships to clients we’ve partnered with since our inception, we thank you for a decade of creativity and success. 

Our partners, the local community, and other supporters have allowed us to sustain this work. A special thanks goes out to other marketers, the Iowa City Area Development Group, and the talented team of developers, writers, and photographers we collaborate with. They’ve allowed us to grow from a single coworking desk to a small studio. We’ve had top-notch employees, interns who gave us a spark of creativity, and partners who delivered quality and experience in everything they do. All of this results in agency-level work from our small footprint. 

Staying small is still part of our future strategy. The flexibility of a small staff and trusted partners has given us an advantage in customizing our offerings. It allows us to weather the ups and downs of business, especially during the pandemic. While there will undoubtedly be challenges ahead, we look forward to our continued relationships and the journey forward.

After 38 years of working with some of the most kind and creative people in health care, education, and beyond, I am excited to jump into my next chapter—retirement.

Working with Kevin at Creative Mellen has been the highlight of my career across varied disciplines including nursing, writing, editing, design, marketing, and strategic communications. Watching Kevin’s remarkable branding and design skills come to fruition with the opportunity to be part of his team has been an honor.

For now, you’ll find me not behind a computer or in front of a client but out in the wild, blue yonder—exploring this beautiful planet of ours.

With all good wishes,

Graphic Design USA recognized Creative Mellen with a 58th Anniversary American Package Design Award™ for its work with Mission Meats and their new brand of premium dog treats, Prosperity Pets. More than 2,200 entries were submitted and only the top 10% were selected.

We are humbled and honored to win this award along side of some great brands such as Amazon, Clorox, Colgate Palmolive, Dell, Disney, Dole, General Mills, Hershey, Hilton, Kellogg, LEGO, L’Oreal, Mattel, Microsoft, Xbox, VIZIO, Wrigley, and many more.

Special thanks to Mission Meats for their great collaboration and products.

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Do you struggle to communicate to a specific audience with a clear and concise message? Does that message need to create a different response or action from other audiences you serve? Consider developing a landing page. This page is best designed and written when it speaks directly to your audience.

A landing page allows you to:
CIMBA Study Abroad Landing Page Targeting Undergraduate Students | View Page

For example, we worked with CIMBA, targeting undergraduates to their study abroad program and how they can benefit from its experience. While serving both business graduates and undergraduates, CIMBA’s programs and experiences differ for each group. Focusing on undergraduates allowed us to speak and design directly to a younger audience, highlighting specific experiences from past and current students through video and social feeds.

Do you want to effectively reach a specific audience or need to improve your current approach? Let’s chat.

Stop motion is an animated, filmmaking technique where objects are moved in small increments between photographs, so that they appear to be moving when played back in sequence.

Instead of objects, you can incorporate live actors in a frame-by-frame technique sometimes called pixilation. The subject poses or moves while being photographed in succession.

In a recent project for Urban Acres Real Estate, we used this stop-motion, pixilation technique to give each agent a unique portrait that shows off their personality and interests. We used this approach so we could isolate just one area of the photo to animate while selecting the best “still” portion of the portrait, such as the best smile or lighting within the series of photos.

We worked with each agent on their ideas, ensuring the movement could be seamlessly and continuously looped by our team once photographed. Working with photographer Jill Christine at each location, we helped art direct each element of the scene and animation. Then a series of burst images were taken while the agent (or other subject) made their movement. We did several “takes” to ensure we had a smooth series from which to work.

Selecting the best series of images, we used a combination of Photoshop and After Effects to put everything together. Each frame was carefully manipulated to isolate only the area we wanted to animate. Since these animated portraits would be displayed online, we used a minimal amount of frames possible to keep the file size low. Some of these animations have only three frames.

The final adjustment we considered was the speed between frames. We adjusted the timing between each frame to create a natural motion throughout the animation and its loop.

In the end, we created animated portraits that help tell a story about each agent in an innovative and fun format. This approach further enhances the overall brand of Urban Acres.

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Working at Creative Mellen has been an absolute joy and incredible learning experience. I remember going to the studio for my interview and hoping I would get the internship just so I could work in such a cool and cozy place every day. From day one Kevin treated me as a fellow designer and not as just an intern. He valued my input and invited me to participate in client meetings. In short, I got to fully experience working as a graphic designer.

I acquired new skills in logo design, web design, product design and marketing materials. It doesn’t even feel like I spent 8 months working here. That’s how fast it went by. In a way, I should count myself lucky that I got the internship before the Covid-19 pandemic started because I was able to experience working in a studio setting, as well as working remotely.

I still have one semester left at the University of Iowa. After that, I hope to continue working as a Graphic Designer and Illustrator. The skills I have acquired during my internship with Kevin have prepared me for the professional world, and I can’t wait to get out there and put them to good use!

Creative Mellen worked with the Iowa City Area Business Partnership, Iowa City Area Development Group, Iowa City Downtown District, and Think Iowa City to provide a website tool meant to offer businesses, employees, and the community resources as the Iowa City area works together through the COVID-19 pandemic and beyond.

As the pandemic progresses, the site will adapt to the local needs of the area. View Current Site

Due to the urgent need in the community, we prioritized and developed the site within nine days. The site was designed and developed on a flexible, editable platform for continuous updates and changes. 

Timely news, employee and employer tools, and searchable retail and restaurant pages were developed to help weather this unprecedented time and give the community a resource to help support local businesses. 

We truly are in this together!

At Creative Mellen, we enjoy designing emails that are successful. And by success, we mean emails that your target audience will open, read, and take a desired action. Using powerful/action verb subject lines, inserting dynamic content, and ending with a call to action are the essentials that lead to positive results.

Here are some best-practice tips to consider:

Subject Line
Keep subject lines compelling with action verbs. Keep them concise by using about 60 characters. Subject lines with five to seven words tend to get read.

Preheader Text
Increase open rates by including five to eight words of preheader text that appears below the subject line on mobile devices.

Remember: people are busy! And your competing for their attention. Have a clear goal in mind and keep your copy concise and scannable. Use captivating teasers and link to more in-depth information. Don’t be so stuffy. Translate jargon into common English. Depending on your audience, it’s okay to lighten up and have a little fun.

Fonts and Colors
Control your fonts (use no more than two), balance your colors (keep it simple with a palette of two or three), and remember the power of white space. White space is an essential part of communication. It creates separation, attracts the eyes, creates balance, gives focus, improves readability, and implies sophistication.

Not every block of text needs an image. Use one or two strong images to highlight the most important information.

Add Dynamic Content
Insert movement to trigger surprise and generate action.

Call to Action
Tell people exactly what you want them to do and give them a little push. By making sure your calls to action stick out, incorporate a button or pop of color.

For other tips, read Constant Contact’s Best Practice Guide.