This is a post detailing the design work I did for Ultimate Mobile Mounts (UMM), a startup based in Silicon Valley. UMM imports, markets, and sells smartphone car mounts that are manufactured in South Korea.
Let’s start with the name: Ultimate Mobile Mounts. I wanted to convey a sense that our smartphone car mount was the best. And what better word conveys that than the word ultimate. Instead of mobile I briefly entertained smartphone instead, but you can actually mount smaller iPad mini-like tablets, too. Another consideration was to make the last word — mounts — singular. But I wanted to keep the option of selling more than a single smartphone car mount.
I do believe among the smartphone car mounts you can buy today our mount is one of — if not — the best. There are several reasons, and I’ll do this quick: a non-stick adhesive and suction cup work together make our mount stick, three pivot points make our mount extremely flexible, and our mount is beautiful.
I decided that our smartphone car mount will only come in white. It took some convincing, but it was obvious we did not want to compete against millions of black mounts with another black one. At the time of our launch I think we bumped in one other non-black mount, but I’m not completely sure. White stood out and although white is not the most popular color for car exteriors or interiors, or for smartphones or smartphone cases, white was enough of a differentiator that stood out in an ocean of dull black ones.
Our first smartphone car mount was named Everest. It is a play on the words ultimate and mount, and on the color white. The ultimate white mount? The answer is obvious.
Once the brand name and product were decided I had a certain feel for where the direction of the logo design should go. I decided against an icon partly because a smartphone car mount comes in a lot of different shapes, but mostly because the brand name led to a funny acronym: UMM.
UMM… is probably not the most sophisticated acronym, but it reminded me of UGG. My first reaction to the UGG brand name was: “That’s a stupid name. Why remind us of ugly?” UMM can remind us of umm… that unprofessional pause word that we use all the time. But UGG for all accounts and purposes is a successful brand, despite its acronym. So UMM can too, is what I thought. I used the three letters and started designing a logo.
The image above was the first version I ended up with. I started hand-drawing the UMM part in Illustrator. I thickened the lip of the letter U to make it more ultimate, more like a champion. The two M’s I designed to remind us of mountain tops, a continued play on the word mount. The two red vertical bars weren’t originally there, but without them I had a difficult time differentiating the three characters. I made those bars red to differentiate them, but it looked a little too sinister. The text underneath is in the font face League Spartan, which can be found at The League of Moveable Type. I liked League Spartan because it was bold — as if it was announcing a winner — but not obnoxious.
Here is the final version of the UMM logo. I changed the sinister vertical bars separating the three characters in three ways. One, the red had to go. Two, I elongated them almost to the ends so I could more easily identify the three characters. Three, instead of an outline I decided to make the letters solid.
I changed the font, too. The reason for this has little to do with design and a lot to do with business. For some reason the printing company that worked with our manufacturer in South Korea had a difficult time with embedded fonts in my Illustrator files. So I decided to hand-draw the letterings to get away from fonts altogether. That solved the printing problem in one go.
A web presence today is mandatory and with my fingers crossed searched for ultimatemobilemounts.com on Hover (consider using my referral link — I get a couple of bucks back if you make a domain purchase there, and Hover has been darn good for me for many years). Well, the domain was available! Then the question was where to host it. I thought of WordPress, but decided I’d try my hand with Squarespace. What convinced me were all the beautiful templates. The learning curve isn’t steep, but there are some new editing methods to get used to. For several days I didn’t know how to insert photos. It turned to be so simple; I don’t think I need to explain here. Check out www.ultimatemobilemounts.com; it is a work in progress. I wanted to get it up and out there. Looking back I can see I was rushed. (Note: I needed to take the website offline.)
I wanted to keep the website similar in feel with our Everest mount: white, grey, with a little splash of color. Your constructive criticism is most welcome.
I also started a blog centered around the idea of road trips. (Note: My UMM website had to be taken offline.) I was guessing a handy smartphone mount would make road trips a lot more fun. We took a road trip around the San Francisco Bay Area and took some photos and videos. You can see some videos on the UMM Instagram feed. (Note: I needed to take my UMM Instagram account offline.)
Most of the photos on the website were taken with one of these: a Samsung Galaxy Note 4, Apple iPhone 4s / 5c, and a Sony RX100.
I have loved photography — check out my personal Instagram feed — for quite some time, but a lot of what I learned was through trial and error. Right before I started designing for UMM I had the fortune of bumping into a free online course on portrait photography. I learned a little about lighting and about reflecting light in particular. The photo of Everest at the beginning of this article is the result.
I took it in our cubicle. The main light from the left is a LED work light bought from a local hardware store and I used the LED flash from my iPhone 4s to add a little brightness in the front. I was working with the idea of having Everest as though it was a model. Capitalizing on Everest’s flexibility I was able to find a few interesting poses. Not professional level, but I’m thinking the photos are passable for web use. Again, if you have any constructive feedback for me, feel free to contact me.
I wanted to show how easy it was to mount a smartphone on Everest. I first thought I’d draw it and then animate it, but that didn’t work out too well. I’m not that great at drawing and I’m not at all good at animation. So video it was.
My car though faithful and reliable isn’t very pretty, so I asked my sister and brother-in-law if I could use their brand new SUV. Of course, them being generous folks said yes. And my sister offered to help with the video and be the hand model. I did not refuse.
I used my Sony RX100 point-and-shoot camera on a suction-only mount I purchased a long time ago on the driver’s side window to capture the video. I added the title page, the page at the end, and transitions using Adobe Premiere Pro. I used the Source Sans Pro font — you can find it at Font Squirrel, an indispensable site where you find free, beautiful fonts — to give it a high-tech look and feel. Check out the video on Vimeo. I then posted the video on Facebook in my UMM public group, which I created to let my friends know about UMM. (Update: I needed to take my video offline to prevent unauthorized use of my video.)
UMM Everest was the first physical product I had the pleasure of working on. From the brand name, product name, logo design, package design to the website, photographs, videos, etc. I had a lot of fun and learned a lot. I still have much to learn about design and I look forward. One area that I’d like to explore is in how to design effective marketing without having to empty your bank account. If you have awesome ideas you’d like to share, contact me.