The Chalkboard is a collection of Grain & Mortar news, events, latest work, and helpful advice.

August 10th | News

A new art director is back in town.

An Omaha-native and graduate of Metropolitan Community College, Justin recently moved back to Omaha with his wife. He loved Minneapolis and the active lifestyle (read: weekend bike tours of the multiple breweries near his apartment) but his family is here and there are fewer sub-zero days per year.

His experience as a designer for agencies and in-house teams has prepared him well for his new position as an Art Director with Grain & Mortar. Justin believes problem-solving is the motor behind good design. “When I graduated from college I remember I just wanted to make beautiful things. It didn’t take me long to realize if it’s not effective it’s not any good.”




Growing up, he was curious about how things were made; computer-animated movies and logos, in particular. Recently, his parents found meticulously recreated famous logos Justin had drawn as a boy. “I was trying to understand how designers made logos. So, I replicated what I admired, what I thought was cool.” It wasn’t until college that he realized there was a career that would allow him to combine storytelling and art with computers and technology.

His ideal scenario is to work in a studio that allows him the opportunity to switch between branding, print and web-specific work. He’s looking forward to the variety of projects he’ll work on within Grain & Mortar and the challenge to learn that accompanies that variety. “Regardless of the project, there is always a person at the other end of whatever you create,” says Justin. “And solving their problem, making their life easier or more functional is what I try to keep in mind as I design.”

He admires classics such as designers Paul Rand, Saul Bass, the AT&T and FedEx logos, and even mid-century modern furniture. As a college student he loved mid-century modern furniture so much that he taught himself to build his own versions–a hobby that he has honed over the years.

In addition to building furniture, Justin has logged two half-marathons and countless hours enjoying the breweries of Minneapolis. He and his wife are also the proud roommates of Ralphie, a seven-year-old Shih Tzu.

| August 10th | News

ooh... me Likey

August 4th | Work

Introducing “The Midwest Made Series”, a collection of videos showcasing our love of illustration, motion and the Midwest.

We love the Midwest and Nebraska, in particular. Not too long ago we compiled a list of people and things that come from our beloved state. It was a pretty eclectic list and we thought, “Wouldn’t it be fun to see this eclectic list animated?”

“Heck yeah!” we said, “Everything is better when it’s animated!”

So, we got Bryan to turn our list into a bunch of fun videos. Each video contains a combination of clues that identifies a specific person or thing from Nebraska. Starting today, we’re going to share the videos on Facebook, Twitter, Dribbble, and Instagram. The rest of this week we’ll release a new video and you, our pals, can see if you’re able to figure out who or what is Midwest Made.

Watch each episode.


Q: How many Midwest Made videos will you release?
A: More than one. Less than 1,000,000.

Q: Will I be able to guess even if I’m not from Nebraska?
A: Of course! Nebraska is the birthplace of a lot of famous (and infamous) peeps, and some pretty cool stuff, too.

Q: What do I win if I guess who or what the video is about?
A: Our undying devotion. A sense of accomplishment.

Q: Where can I get my own cool video about something I really love?
A: We know a guy. Give us a call.

| August 4th | Work

ooh... me Likey

July 7th | News

Brooke is bringing additional Project Manager power to the team!

Brooke is joining G&M with more than a decade’s worth of experience managing design, production and web projects. She loves creating structure and seeing creative teams reap the benefits.




In her past positions, Brooke mastered the ability to respond to chaos with organization and efficiency and along the way she built an impressive arsenal of additional skills like writing, proofreading, editing, design and office management, too. (We also hear she’s an amazing baker so, you know, we’re looking forward to that.)

Outside of work, Brooke is dedicated to her two children–Ephram, 6 and Saphira, 2. She also finds time to help her church by volunteering in their food pantry.

| July 7th | News

ooh... me Likey

July 6th | News

Dylan’s onboard so we can double the developing fun.

Dylan is a front end developer with agency experience and a passion for optimization.

He remembers the first computer he built. This Frankenstein of a machine was crafted in his best friend’s basement. From the first hint of life, Dylan knew there was no turning back for him–it was either a career in the tech industry or a lab in 18th Century Europe.




Dylan has a design background but turned to development when he discovered it offered room for creativity and the feedback was nearly instantaneous. He helps out the Nebraska design community through Nebraska AIGA.

In his spare time he indulges his foodie tendencies.

| July 6th | News

ooh... me Likey

June 25th | News

The Coffee with a Cop program is centered around two ideas that we wholeheartedly support–building relationships that support better policing in our communities and drinking coffee.

Coffee with a Cop hosts gatherings over coffee in local restaurants, diners and coffee shops to connect community members with the police officers that serve them.

It’s no secret that police across the nation have been under scrutiny in recent years and the Coffee with a Cop program was started by members of the Hawthorne California Police Department in 2011 as one way to improve relations between police and community members. It has been growing quickly, nationally and internationally. We were asked to update their logo and create a new website and were pleased to contribute to something that was a proactive, positive step towards better policing across the country.

Logo Update

The original Coffee with a Cop logo was difficult to read at a small size. The program needed a logo that could work in a variety of applications–flyers, hats, t-shirts, vehicle signage–so our challenge was to retain elements of the original logo but update it by simplifying and modernizing the mark. Because the program was being exported to international police departments it also needed to be able to handle translations of “Coffee with a Cop” in multiple languages and still fit within the logo’s parameters.




We began by stripping the logo down to a one-color mark and eliminating several visual elements in order to boost readability. We focused on creating a badge–a symbol of honor and pride–as the primary visual motif along with a steaming cup of coffee. The color palette, font and iconography style were chosen to represent the friendly, straightforward qualities behind the Coffee with a Cop program.

New Responsive Website

Coffee with a Cop is run by working police officers who are busy solving homicides, running police departments and more. They needed a site that was easy to maintain and could handle high volume traffic from the press, police departments, and communities around the country.




We built a responsive, fast site in WordPress which makes it possible for the officers to maintain their content independently. Our goal was to keep the site lightweight and lean from the development side so it could handle high volumes of traffic.

One of the core tasks of the website was to display the events they host across the country. We built a custom events mapping feature to display all upcoming and past events. Best of all, we created an automated publishing feature so officers across the country can submit upcoming events that auto-publish upon approval. This frees the Coffee with a Cop officers from the drudgery of data entry and keeps them focused on the important stuff. Doughnuts. No. Police work.




Strategic Animation, Illustration and Copy

The animated conversation on the site’s home page appears simple but required significant thought in terms of copy, design and development. Illustrations throughout the site help define categories, provide quick signposts for key ideas and add some visual fun. We also strove to achieve a balance in the content to reflect the attitude of the program, itself–professional, helpful and responsive.

We are proud of the work Coffee with a Cop is doing and glad that we could help them contribute to the ongoing dialogue to improve community and police relations. We encourage everyone to attend an event in their area.



| June 25th | News

ooh... me Likey