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

December 23rd | Work

MakeSchool is creating an environment where students learn by building and shipping their own software products

We were introduced to the founders of MakeSchool through a referral from Y Combinator partner, Kevin Hale. MakeSchool offers a unique supplemental option to the traditional college experience for students interested in learning mobile and web development or computer science theory. MakeSchool is able to give students experiences beyond the standard college computer science degree through hands-on work building apps and networking opportunities with professionals in the tech industry.


We updated the existing MakeSchool logo mark to give it an academic appeal. The website, itself, was designed and developed with a focus on two distinct audiences. It was important to appeal to a pre-college or college-age student. We also had to be mindful of the concerns parents would have about the financial investment of a Gap Year or Summer Academy experience. The website was organized and designed to provide a satisfying user experience for students and their parents.

MakeSchool trains developers with necessary technical skills and provides direction on important communication skills such as pitching, writing and email etiquette. With the unique ability to provide internships at Silicon Valley powerhouses like Facebook and Apple, MakeSchool is a dream opportunity for many young founders and software developers. Learn more about MakeSchool.


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| December 23rd | Work

ooh... me Likey

December 3rd | Work

The University of Nebraska asked us to help them thank our fellow Nebraskans.

The University of Nebraska traditionally sends an official “thank you” to the citizens of Nebraska around the holiday season. This year, the University president wanted to go a little further. In addition to thanking Nebraskans for their support of our state’s University, he wanted to start a conversation about how the University impacts individual lives.

Grain & Mortar was asked to write and design a full-page newspaper ad and a landing page to thank the people of the state and ask them to share the reasons they were grateful for the University via Facebook and Twitter.




We developed a theme around the idea of living in a “state of gratitude.” Through copy and custom illustrations we demonstrated the many ways the University impacts the state – education, research, health care, innovation and outreach.


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G&M has directly benefitted from the University of Nebraska – our very own Matt Carlson is a UNO alum (go Mavs!). We are very grateful to live and work in a state that values its University. If you feel the same gratitude, share your story:

| December 3rd | Work

ooh... me Likey

December 1st | Work

User experience and quality go together like pepperoni and mozzarella.

Our client, Dante Pizzeria, specializes in authentic wood-fired Neapolitan pizza. Their dedication to authenticity, quality, and straight-up deliciousness influences everything they do. When owner, Nick Strawhecker came to Grain & Mortar for an update to their menu system we noticed an opportunity to work with a fellow artisan.

“Simplicity is the ultimate form of sophistication.” – Leonardo da Vinci

In design, coding and copywriting we’re always striving to remove unnecessary information in an attempt to get an idea to work in its purest state. Nick shares our obsession with simple, mouthwatering quality. His career in the culinary arts led him to Italy where he learned the tradition of Neapolitan pizza. His is one of fewer than 100 restaurants in the United States that is certified by the Associazione Verace Pizza Napoletana. This organization upholds the traditions of Neapolitan pizza making and has strict requirements about ingredients, the type of oven and the technique used to make pizza.

We love eating pizza. And we also love creating great user experiences. So collaborating with Nick to reconfigure their menu system was a great way to merge our expertise in both areas. Together we worked to eliminate anything unnecessary to ensure the best experience for his customers. We quickly found their menu pain points were similar to user experience issues we’ve seen many times before.

Approach the customer at their comfort level.

Dante offers a large wine selection. Their original menu was organized by regions in Italy. This was a great system for knowledgeable wine drinkers but it wasn’t working for the typical customer.

We re-structured the wine list to make it more accessible.




If everything is important, nothing is important.

Separate menus for dinner, drinks and happy hour items were overwhelming customers and the wait staff.

We streamlined the menus and simplified the layouts into more user-friendly categories.




Keep maintenance easy and you’ll save time, money and resources.

The original Dante dinner menu was flimsy and tended to get beaten up quickly. We worked with MTRL Design to create a custom, laser cut, wood board to hold the new dinner menus. This 1/8-inch birch plywood board adds a robust feel to the menu and ties the craftsman experience that exists in the Dante kitchen to the table.

The previous dinner menu also included a listing of their daily specials. This required the staff to print a new large dinner menu every day. We created a template for a smaller daily menu insert that saved them on ink and is easy to insert into dinner menus each night.




Like Grain & Mortar, Dante Pizzeria is dedicated to quality, expertise and a great customer experience. If you’re in Omaha treat yourself to one of their great pizzas in their newly redesigned dining room and enjoy the snazzy new menus.

| December 1st | Work

ooh... me Likey

November 21st | Work

Kuna Systems developed a great new product. Our challenge was to help them introduce it to the world.

We love when we get opportunities to work with innovators. We met with Haomiao Huang from Kuna Systems at a coffee shop in San Francisco in June and we knew right away we wanted to work together. His product – a smart camera in an outdoor light that helps prevent home break-ins – was something we wanted to buy for our own homes and it was clear he understood the value of a well-executed brand.

We worked closely with Haomiao and his team to define and bring the Kuna brand to life in time for a vital fundraising campaign. Because the Kuna is a new type of product, the brand, website, and all other materials had to answer a lot of questions for potential customers. Having the information ready, along with a fully-realized brand platform would communicate to potential customers that although this product is new, the people behind it are smart, careful and concerned about your security.

Kuna Systems launched their website and their campaign on IndieGoGo October 21st of this year and as of November 21st they have managed to raise 402% of their goal. That’s right. They surpassed their $50,000 fundraising goal by $151,046. And they’re not done yet. You have until November 30th to claim yours!

So how does a company introduce a new category of product and overshoot a fundraising goal in less than four weeks? By building confidence in the brand.


The logo itself borrows visual inspiration from swords and camera lenses to represent a modern sense of security.

The logo borrows visual inspiration from a sword and a camera lens to represent both a traditional and modern sense of security.

The website quickly defines how the Kuna works and the value it offers homeowners.

The website quickly defines how the product works and the value it offers homeowners.


There are different ways to crowdsource start-up funding. No matter what platform you use, you have to do more than show up if you want to succeed. It helps if you can offer an amazing product that people want to buy. But beyond that you need to come out of the gate with a clear understanding of your brand and a well-articulated message for your customers-to-be. Devoting time to brand work in the early stages of your company’s life may feel like putting the cart before the horse but it’s essential to building a strong foundation for your company. The branding process forces you to answer integral questions about your product or service, your business objectives and the culture or community you want to create.

Together we helped Kuna Systems develop a solid brand identity, messaging, website and designs for their mobile app in time for their launch making it possible for them to speak clearly and authentically to their potential customers.


Caption needed.

The interface is simple and easy to use. Exactly what you want in a home security app.

| November 21st | Work

ooh... me Likey

November 19th | News

Like Drake, Liz considers herself a rookie and a vet.

She is new to G&M but has a long track record as a content strategist. She has experience working on the agency side as well as the client side of projects. Her preference is whatever side serves coffee all day long.

She is excited to collaborate in a studio filled with developers, designers, illustrators and animators. She loves when words and images mix to do something neither can do alone.

She’s written content for everything from bike rack stickers to feature-length documentaries. Her favorite kinds of projects involve fixing something that is broken or creating something that wasn’t there before.

When not at work, Liz enjoys spending time with her daughter Camille and her lab Roxie, cooking and watching movies.

Her favorite quote these days is from Dorothy Parker – “The cure for boredom is curiosity. There is no cure for curiosity.”



| November 19th | News

ooh... me Likey