Last year, Oxide was honored with a nomination for a prestigious national design award. Spoiler alert: we did not end up winning the award.

Even though we didn’t win, submitting an entry for the competition helped us clarify and express a lot of things about Oxide and who we are. In line with the award, which recognizes design that enhances the quality of life, we focused our application on Oxide’s unique contributions to the community and the ways we’ve used design to create change.

Since we’ve already put the effort into collecting these thoughts, we decided to share this cohesive look behind the curtain, so you can learn more about what drives and inspires us.

Oxide Design Co. is a branding and design firm established in 2001.

At Oxide Design Co. we believe strongly in using our design powers for good, to support worthy and valuable efforts in our community and our world. Part of this drive is explained by our manifesto: We design to solve problems, realize meaningful change, help people, and make sense of the world.

In that vein, over half of our work is donated or discounted for non-profits and charitable organizations to which we can bring substantial value.

One branch of our socially responsible work is civic design. We work toward the goal of making the election process smoother for all, and including more people in the democratic process by using plain language.

We also partner with a wide variety of non-profits we believe are doing good out in the world — from local arts organizations to international initiatives dedicated to helping women leave the sex trade.

Anywhere Ballot

Anywhere Ballot

Location Baltimore, Maryland
Year 2013–2017
Partners Dana Chisnell of Center for Civic Design, Kathryn Summers of University of Baltimore

We designed and usability tested an accessible, highly usable interactive digital ballot interface prototype — designed to be accessible for all voters — to be used anywhere, anytime, on any device. The Anywhere Ballot is shared open-source for the betterment of all digital election work. It has been used as the basis for many voting system interfaces across the nation, from multiple commercial election vendors to Los Angeles County’s cutting-edge VSAP voting machines.

Field Guides to Ensuring Voter Intent

Field Guides to Ensuring Voter Intent

Location Andover, Massachusetts
Year 2012–2016
Partners Center for Civic Design (Dana Chisnell and Whitney Quesenbery)

We designed these 10 pocket-sized guides, containing field-researched, critical design techniques that help ensure that every vote is cast as voters intend. Boiling down a full manual of best practices for ballot design (the U.S. Election Assistance Commission’s Effective Designs for the Administration of Federal Elections), the Field Guides present design guidelines that election officials can really use. Each guide contains a simple “Top 10” list on a particular topic, ranging from ballots to election department websites.

MPower Condoms

MPower Condoms

Location Omaha, Nebraska
Year 2010
Partners Nebraska AIDS Project’s MPower program

We designed condom wrappers for a division of Nebraska AIDS Project focusing on HIV/AIDS education and prevention. The condom wrappers needed to disseminate AIDS education information, but also to try to remove the stigma of taking free condoms at local bars and clubs. Our illustrations, using a combination of kitschy art and bad double-entendres, created a fun “collectibility” to make it hip for club-goers to reach for the condom bowl.

Big Omaha

Big Omaha

Location Omaha, Nebraska
Year 2009
Partners Silicon Prairie News

In the first year of Silicon Prairie News’ conference on innovation and entrepreneurship in the heartland, Oxide branded the conference, developing the concept of “giant cow” as the perfect tongue-in-cheek symbol for Omaha. Since the conference’s content centers around the idea of taking a leap of faith, we used daredevils and risk-takers — interacting with the cow — to capture its spirit.

Skål! Scandinavian Spirits

Skål! Scandinavian Spirits

Location Elk Horn, Iowa
Year 2015
Partners Museum of Danish America

Oxide created the identity, an exhibition catalog, and interpretive panels for the Museum of Danish America’s traveling exhibition on the history and culture of beer and aquavit in Scandinavia — called Skål! Scandinavian Spirits. We paired a type-based logo with a graphic pattern that draws from the traditional patterns found in Scandinavian folk art to capture an organic folk art look. The pattern is made up of objects specific to Scandinavia and the exhibit, ranging from viking ale bowls to aquavit ingredients to mermaids.

Maha Music Festival

Maha Music Festival

Location Omaha, Nebraska
Year 2012
Partners Maha Music Festival

We rebranded an independent alt-rock music festival, named for the Maha tribe of Native Americans, famously led by Chief Blackbird. We looked to evoke the lore of the Maha while also capturing the festival’s key elements: pride, place, and independence. We found the perfect solution in the great Maha Chief Blackbird. Oxide developed a modern symbol for the chief that hints at the visual style of the Plains Indians, but is still pure rock ’n’ roll. It’s so rock ’n’ roll, in fact, that almost 50 people got it tattooed on their body during a special promotion.

Animus: Film vs. Book

Animus: Film vs. Book

Location Omaha, Nebraska
Year 2015
Partners Omaha Public Library’s 1877 Society

After partnering with the Omaha Public Library to brand its young professional group, the 1877 Society, Oxide helped name, brand, and promote its inaugural flagship event, Animus: Film vs. Book. Reflecting the arcane, old-world sensibilities captured in the logo of the not-so-secret society, Animus’ branding is hand-drawn and hints at archaic tarot cards.

Metro Transit

Metro Transit

Location Omaha, Nebraska
Year 2010
Partners Transit Authority of the City of Omaha

We partnered with Omaha’s mass transit provider to reposition it as a major metropolitan transportation system serving the public — and to unify its branding. We streamlined its identity and helped establish Metro Transit as reliable, professional, and modern. Oxide developed a new logo that is bold and iconic — the kind of symbol you can recognize a block away on a bus sign. We also redesigned the bus fleet to make it instantly identifiable, and overhauled their website to make it more informative and usable.

Federal Voting Assistance Program

Federal Voting Assistance Program

Location Alexandria, Virginia
Year 2013
Partners U.S. Department of Defense’s Federal Voting Assistance Program

We worked with Federal Voting Assistance Program (FVAP, a division of the U.S. Department of Defense) on comprehensive usability testing and subsequent redesign of the Federal Post Card Application (FPCA) and the Federal Write-in Absentee Ballot (FWAB) — voting documents for all U.S. citizens living abroad or working in the military.

Refugee Empowerment Center

Refugee Empowerment Center

Location Omaha, Nebraska
Year 2015
Partners Refugee Empowerment Center

Partnering with the Refugee Empowerment Center, we donated branding for this organization that helps resettle refugees in Omaha. The logo is directly inspired by linocut prints made by refugees in the Empowerment Center’s educational programming, and represents the many beautiful cultures the Center serves.

 

Video

As bonus content for anyone who actually made it through all these pages, I am reluctantly sharing the video of myself talking about Oxide’s work and mission.

 

Double-bonus

The team made a blooper reel of the above video, which I am now obligated to post in reward for you having made it this far.

 

Thanks for reading

I’ll be honest — win or lose, I can’t help beam with pride at this collection of work we’ve achieved over the last several years at Oxide. It’s a great feeling to work with a team that’s contributing so much to our community and our country.

Editor’s note: Due to confidentiality rules around the award, we weren’t allowed to name the competition in this post.